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Robot Charlie helps children manage Diabetes

Suffering from Diabetes is no fun, especially for children. They have to learn early in life how to measure their blood sugar, how to count carbohydrates and how to make healthy choices when it comes to food and sweets. Scientists from the European PAL project try to help them: with a special tablet app and with Charlie the robot.

Roos Nuboer, paediatric diabetologist from the Meander Medical Centre in the Netherlands, is excited about the positive effect Charlie has: "Kids love this robot! Children don't usually like going to the clinic, they prefer funnier things to do like playing with their friends. But this robot makes them want to come. They take selfies with the robot, they show their friends that diabetes is not just a burden.”

Where a doctor or nurse would deliver their advice in short – and possibly boring – lectures Charlie takes the time to play games with his young patients, for example a quiz about deserts: This way they learn that some deserts contain more, some less sugar.

Next, the roles are switched and now it's the knee-high robot who has to guess the answer. The scientists around project coordinator Rosemarijn Looije made sure that Charlie doesn't always get it right. Children love correcting his occasional mistakes. When they are not in the clinic to see him "personally" they can get in touch with him and his avatar via a tablet from home.  

PAL stands for Personal Assistant for a healthy Lifestyle. The 4-year project started in March 2015 and benefits from an EU grant of 4.5 million Euros.

A report on the PAL project was produced for Futuris, the science programme of the pan-European television channel Euronews. It was shown on TV more than a dozen times  until 19 March 2017 and remains available online, using the following links:

Euronews video (4:15), also available in DE, EL, ES, FR, HU, IT, PT and a number of additional languages

Takeaway (0:47), short version of the Euronews video with music. English subtitles. No narration

Project website

AFP-article "Charlie robot new best buddy for kids with diabetes", also available in FR

Further news articles in EN and NL

Blog post by PAL coordinator Rosemarijn Looije

PAL on Cordis