This study is the first survey to report a qualitative research which was carried out on the extracted traits of words and behaviour expressed by the patients and their caregivers, when aibo was used for a GRI in the pediatric ward. Two points were identified. First, positive expression by children accounted for as much as 2/3 of the total. Besides, the children from ‘change’ group originally responded negatively but eventually came to express positive reaction, through getting involved in ternary relationship, or gradually getting accustomed to the session by participating more than once. Secondly, among the expressions by the caregivers obtained from the GRI by aibo, positive reactions such as ‘participation’ and ‘exploration’ accounted for 2/3 of the total.
First of all, in the GRI by aibo, positive expression by children accounted for as much as 2/3 of the total. Besides, the children from ‘change’ group originally responded negatively but eventually came to express positive reaction, through getting involved in ternary relationship, or gradually getting accustomed to the session by participating more than once. In a recent study, Haggable, a bear-shaped SR, Haggable on a tablet screen, and a bear shaped toy were offered to 54 hospitalized children as an interventional therapy. Video monitoring analysis showed the children of ‘SR’ group expressed more of “joy” or “comfort” , than of “sadness”,5 which is similar to the study result we obtained. In another study, Nao, a humanoid SR, was implemented for hospitalized children, for the purpose of pain reduction as well as increasing joy and motivation for treatment. Although the number of cases were small, the study reported that Nao helped the children reduce their anxiety, anger and depression, playing a role as a good friend to encourage them.14-15 Becoming ill and hospitalized, children are disconnected from their familiar lives and lose their social ties.2 In most cases, children may lose the precious opportunities to build ternary relationship, cooperative attention, imitation and so forth,16 all of which encourage the development of children. In our study, it is significant to point out that a certain number of children have experienced a scene to change their feeling into that of positive, through building ternary relationships, as seen in the ‘change’ group. It suggests that aibo could possibly be useful as a tool to help build ternary relationships that enhances sociality of children, which is often impaired in pediatric chronic hospitalization. Although there are various studies which examine the potential use of SRs in pediatric settings, the number of participants is small.2 aibo was implemented into an inpatient treatment setting, whose effects were evaluated for 127 population. No such study has ever been reported in the pediatric nor adult setting.
Secondly, as for the expression by the caregivers in the GRI by aibo, positive reactions such as ‘participation’ and ‘exploration’ accounted for 2/3 of the total, while placid reactions such as ‘watch over’, ‘encourage’ accounted for 1/3. In the study in which PARO was implemented into pediatric inpatient setting, it was reported that when family members participated together, the higher the rate of improvement on a child’s anxiety and pain.10 In our study as well, it was potentially significant for the children to see their caregivers participate positively. Furthermore, the caregivers of children with chronic illness tend to be more susceptible to mental distress such as anxiety or depression than the caregivers of healthy children.17 From caregivers’ mental health perspective, in this study, it was noteworthy for the caregivers to have enjoyed themselves ‘participating’ in the aibo intervention, or to have communication with other caregivers to share the excitement into ‘exploration.’
aibo is beneficial in making up for human resources as well as from the financial perspective. Moreover, for many pediatric patients, child life specialists are helpful in reducing the pain experienced during hospitalization.5 Service provided by human labor, however, has limits. For there is not enough child life specialist staff to offer help for every child in every opportunity experienced during hospitalization. SRs, including aibo, could fill the gap between the number of pediatric inpatient children in need of psychosocial care and the lack of human resources to support them.
Three aspects of limitation of study should be noted as shortcomings. First, in this study, age and gender of the participants were not accurately obtained. Secondly, neither multilateral, scientific nor quantitative evaluation was not made. Third, this report had no control group.
There are two findings from this world’s first study which examined the potential effect of aibo onto the patients in inpatient treatment setting. Substantial expressions by the children obtained from the GRI by aibo were positive, while a certain number of children who had originally responded negatively eventually came to express positive reaction, through building ternary relationships or gradually getting accustomed to the session by participating more than once, as seen in the ‘change’ group. Whereas much of the expressions by the caregivers obtained from the GRI by aibo were positive reactions such as ‘participation’ and ‘exploration.’