Livin' on the MDedge

Many specialists are on the wrong side of the patient-jargon relationship


I am Reliebo. I am here to help you

Halloween is almost here, and the LOTME staff has been trying to make the office look as scary as possible: Headless vampires, ghost clowns, Ted Cruz, gray tombstones, pink hearts, green clovers, red balloons. Wait a second, those last three are Lucky Charms marshmallows, aren’t they? We’ll use those some other time.

Reliebo, the anxiety-relieving robot University of Tsukuba

What are we not using to decorate? Well, besides marshmallows from cereal, we’re not using Reliebo. That’s what we’re not using. Reliebo is a cute little fuzzy robot, and is not at all scary. Reliebo was designed to be the opposite of scary. Reliebo “may reduce fear as well as alleviate the perception of pain during medical treatments, including vaccinations,” senior author Fumihide Tanaka, PhD, of the University of Tsukuba (Japan) said in a written statement.

The soft, fur-covered robot contains small airbags that can inflate in response to hand movements. When study participants were subjected to a moderate heat stimulus on one arm, those who held the robot with the other arm experienced less pain than those who did not have a Reliebo.

The results also were encouraging when Dr. Tanaka and associates measured the levels of oxytocin and cortisol (biomarkers for stress) from the subjects’ saliva samples and evaluated their fear of injections and their psychological state before and after the experiments.

After looking at that photo of Reliebo for a while, though, we have to admit that we’re having a bit of a rethink about its cuteness. Is it cute, or weird-looking? An office full of fuzzy little inflating robots just could be seriously creepy. Please don’t tell the rest of the staff about this. We want to surprise them on Monday.


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