Robo Doc Reads Children’s Pulses Without Scaring Them

[Markus] recently took his 14-month-old daughter to the pediatrician for a routine checkup. During the examination, the doctor needed to measure her pulse and quickly clamped an infrared heart rate monitor onto her finger. Between the strange device clamped to her finger and incessant beeping of machines, [Markus]’ daughter got scared and started to cry. [Markus] thought these medical devices were far too scary for an infant, so he designed a funny robot to read an infant’s heart rate.

[Markus] liked the idea the Tengu, a robot with a LED matrix for facial expressions, and used it as inspiration for the interface and personality of his RoboDoc. To read a child’s pulse rate, [Markus] used a photoplethysmography sensor; basically an IR LED and receiver that reflects light off a finger bone and records the number of heartbeats per minute.

The build is tied together with a speaker allowing the RoboDoc to give the patient instructions, and a servo to turn the head towards the real, human doctor and display the recorded heart rate.

We think the RoboDoc would be far less disconcerting for an infant that a huge assortment of beeping medical devices, and we can’t wait to see [Markus]’ next version of non-scary doctor’s tools.

25 thoughts on “Robo Doc Reads Children’s Pulses Without Scaring Them

  1. when I first read the title I thought you said scarring children!!! Any hack that avoids the need to scar children wins my vote. Cute robot wins every time in paediatrics.

    1. Now your just being silly. There are several problems with this.

      1. Requires extra time, especially when the patient may not want to stay still.

      2. Requires bedside manner.

      3. Hard to sense through the gloves (especially with a small child)

      4. They couldn’t charge an additional ‘diagnostic’ fee.

      5. It’s not a hack and therefore would not be on Hack A Day.

      While I think this might be cool for an older kid, I think young children would be far more frightened by this than the normal method. A lot of it is about attitude you know.

  2. Or you could teach your little snowflake not to be afraid of everyday procedures.

    Pampering your child over such simple things doesn’t help your child in the long run, it just makes them less able to function in society where scary things are a part of everyday life.

    1. +1

      A 14 month old is getting to a toddler… if s/he doesn’t want to be somewhere, they will cry regardless… frankly anything different from usual stimuli might cause them to start wailing if they are tired/cranky enough.

      I doubt an anthropomorphic robot head with flashing LED’s for a mouth is going to be less frightening to small child then the small amount of pressure from a finger clamp. Putting it on his own finger, or ear lobe, first would probably help her to be as nervous about it.

      But in general we do need to get better at teaching kids to “suck it up”.

      1. This. Toddlers can’t really be reasoned with, at least not like adults or even older children. You basically have to use psychology.

        Of course, kids are really good at picking up on and imitating (often unconsciously) behavior of parents (who might themselves be unconscious of the behavior). If you’re afraid of the doctor, even if you think you’re hiding it, the kids may pick up on it and be afraid too.

    2. I agree. Though I do like personifying objects from time to time…

      But better results might be produced by just building the machine into a large plush cartoon character and sewing the finger clamp into Mickey Mouse’s hand (or Simba’s mouth)

    3. You nailed it.

      And this is supposed to be less scary? The gaping, snapping LED maw, the distorted voice.. As a 14 month old, I think I’d rather have my finger in a clip than get anywhere near that thing.

      Put it in a Barney plush instead. I doubt kids would be afraid of that. And if they somehow come away from the experience with a Barney phobia, that may still be considered a good thing.

      I supposed any excuse to build a robot is a good one, though.

  3. Or, rather than make a flashing blue robo-demon that gets a one-time reading and no oximetry data and requires that you bring it the finger rather than the other way round, you could do what we EMS personnel do in the field and just strap on a soft, disposable pulse-ox probe and turn the volume on the monitor down.

    Cool that he managed to hack together a pulse meter, though.

  4. Paeds nurse here. Awesome job, looks great! Humble suggestion, some form of interaction with the child always helps, let them push some buttons to make it smile and sing or some such thing, removes a bit of the fear and kids love pushing buttons.
    Good job!

    1. The part about pushing buttons is so true. I don’t know what it is, but if there’s buttons, and if there’s a kid nearby, thems buttons gettin pushed. I remember doing this as a toddler, and it being my favorite game next to “will it fit in the VCR.”

      1. Buttons only pertain to children? Hell I still have to hit every button at least once when getting in a new vehicle… gotta see what happens!
        …plus some of those medical devices make scary shrieking noises when the improper button combination is pressed. Might be a two edged sword getting the kid to press buttons on a medical device. Which medical device buttons will they press next?

        …on a side note, how unsatisfying is a touch screen compared to a tactile button ‘click’? I still can’t get used to those damn things.

  5. Why the doctor does not use his fingers to take the pulse rate ? It is not scary and he will get much more information about the criculation of the patient than only counting the pulse rate !
    Crazy world ! But the robot is nice :-)

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