International Journal of Social Robotics

, Volume 8, Issue 5, pp 743–759 | Cite as

Clinical Application of a Humanoid Robot in Pediatric Cancer Interventions

  • Minoo Alemi
  • Ashkan Ghanbarzadeh
  • Ali MeghdariEmail author
  • Leila Jafari Moghadam


This paper propounds a novel approach by exploring the effect of utilizing a social humanoid robot as a therapy-assistive tool in dealing with pediatric distress. The study aims to create a friendship bond between a humanoid robot and young oncology patients to alleviate their pain and distress. Eleven children, ages 7–12, diagnosed with cancer were randomly assigned into two groups: a social robot-assisted therapy (SRAT) group with 6 kids and a psychotherapy group with five kids at two specialized hospitals in Tehran. A NAO robot was programmed and employed as a robotic assistant to a psychologist in the SRAT group to perform various scenarios in eight intervention sessions. These sessions were aimed at instructing the children about their affliction and its symptoms, sympathizing with them, and providing a space for them to express their fears and worries. The same treatment was conducted by the psychologist alone on the control group. The children’s anxiety, anger, and depression were measured with three standard questionnaires obtained from the literature before and after the treatment (March et al., in J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 36:554–565, 1997; Nelson and Finch, in Children’s inventory of anger, 2000; Kovacs, in Psychopharmacol Bull 21:995–1124, 1985). The results of descriptive statistics and MANOVA indicated that the children’s stress, depression, and anger were considerably alleviated during SRAT treatment and significant differences were observed between the two groups. Considering the positive reactions from the children to the robot assistant’s presence at the intervention sessions, and observing the numerical results, one can anticipate that utilizing a humanoid robot with different communication abilities can be beneficial, both in elevation of efficacy in interventions, and fomenting kids to be more interactive and cooperative in their treatment sessions. In addition, employing the humanoid robot was significantly useful in teaching children about their affliction and instructing them in techniques such as: relaxation or desensitization in order to help them confront and manage their distress themselves and take control of their situation.


Social robot-assisted therapy (SRATCancer Anxiety Anger Depression 



We would like to thank the National Elites Foundation of Iran ( for their moral and financial support throughout this project. Furthermore, the cooperation of MAHAK and MARKAZ-e-TEBI-KOODAKAN Hospitals in Tehran during the course of this research is highly appreciated. We also thank all individuals who helped us throughout this research specially: Dr. Leyli Koochakzadeh, Dr. Farzad, Anooshe Ghanbarzadeh, Marjan Vosoughi, Kompani, Shadi Ansari, Saeedeh Zorofchi, Elaheh Rahimian, Fatemeh Mirdoraghi.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Minoo Alemi
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ashkan Ghanbarzadeh
    • 1
  • Ali Meghdari
    • 1
    Email author
  • Leila Jafari Moghadam
    • 3
  1. 1.Social Robotics LaboratoryCenter of Excellence in Design, Robotics, and Automation Sharif University of TechnologyTehranIran
  2. 2.Islamic Azad University, Tehran West BranchTehranIran
  3. 3.Mahak Hospital and Rehabilitation ComplexTehranIran

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