Contact a Humanities Office or Academic unit.
Find your course outlines.

Dr. David Harris Smith and a team of co-investigators led by principal investigators Dr. Mary Ellen Foster (Glasgow University) and Dr. Samina Ali (University of Alberta) will explore the use of AI social robots to improve children’s health care experiences thanks to funding from the Canada-UK AI Initiative.

This project is a Canada-UK collaboration, involving two partners from the UK (University of Glasgow, Heriot-Watt University) and five partners from Canada (University of Alberta, University of Toronto, McMaster University, Ryerson University, Dalhousie University). The work is interdisciplinary: technical software development will take place in the UK, while co-design and usability studies and clinical research will be done in Canada.

Children experience pain and distress in clinical settings every day, and the negative consequences of unaddressed pain can be both short-term (e.g. fear, distress, inability to perform procedures) and long-term (e.g. needle phobia, anxiety). In a series of small, innovative studies by project team members, a Nao humanoid robot has been used to deliver cognitive behavioural therapy-based interventions during needle-based procedures. The results of these early studies have been positive, showing high acceptance among the target population as well as promising initial clinical results. However, these studies were all hindered by a critical technical limitation: in all cases, the robot was remotely operated and employed purely scripted behaviour with limited AI support, diminishing the flexibility and robustness of its behaviour as well as its potential to offer personalised, adaptive procedural support to children. In this project, the researchers aim to address this limitation by developing and evaluating a clinically relevant and responsive AI enhanced social robot. The researchers propose that interaction with a robust, adaptive, socially intelligent robot can effectively distract children during painful clinical procedures, thereby reducing pain and distress.

The Canada-UK Artificial Intelligence Initiative funding opportunity, valued at $500,000, is offered by the three Canadian federal research funding agencies in collaboration with four research councils part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). In addition to promoting interdisciplinary AI, this call will support the development of responsible AI while establishing new partnerships and enhancing infrastructure and training between researchers in Canada and the UK.