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Guiomar and her brother Darío with the therapeutic robot Juande. Ramón L. Pérez
Meet Juande, the robot helping children at a Granada hospital
Health

Meet Juande, the robot helping children at a Granada hospital

The city's San Rafael hospital has introduced the interactive technology to help children up to six years with learning disabilities

Sara Bárcena Hernández

Granada

Friday, 10 May 2024, 17:10

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Five-and-a-half-year-old Guiomar from Granada is quite used to interacting with robots. "Hello, Guiomar. You're looking well," was the voice of Juande, an interactive robot who for the last two months has been walking around Granada's San Rafael hospital. Since he has been living with humans, he is "learning a lot" and the children he spends time with are also learning from him.

Darío and Guiomara follow in Juande's footsteps to cook an omelette.
Darío and Guiomara follow in Juande's footsteps to cook an omelette. Ramón L. Pérez

"I love the things you do, are you good at cooking? I'd like to be a great chef like you", Juande tells Guiomar. Then he suggests making an omelette. "We'll need a fork, a spatula and a frying pan. We'll also need oil and eggs. We crack and pour the contents into a deep dish. Now, we beat them," the robot indicates. Meanwhile, Guiomar imitates all of Juande's movements as if she were really cooking.

Guiomar and her twin brother Dario mix the ingredients for their omelette. Despite being twins, the siblings are very different. Guiomar is smaller and restless and things are a bit harder for her.

Ramón L. Pérez

Her father Jesús Carrera explains that "her problems are from birth" and the robot helps the learning process "to flow in a more positive way". "Juande helps her to focus and make better use of her time in therapy. For her, it is very important that the elements used by her therapist generate interest," he explains.

For Guiomar, dealing with a robot is not strange. In fact, at home, she plays robot babies and robot daddy with her brother and father. That is why Juande gives her confidence and helps her "to stay on task, to concentrate", said her therapist, Jessica Romero. She is responsible for applying this new therapeutic formula as a "complement" that allows "better work on the weak points" presented by the children who use the early intervention centre at the hospital.

Play therapies

Juande was born in 2019 as part of a social robotics project at the Virgen del Rocío Hospital in Seville. The San Juan de Dios centres did not hesitate to test him, but the professionals were worried that the children would not accept him in therapy because "most of them are very small". In early intervention, patients are between 0 and 6 years old.

However, the success has led to the introduction of this interactive robot, financed with Next Generation Funds, into the San Rafael hospital in Granada. Here it will make friends with the almost 800 children who are treated each year by 33 professionals across various specialties.

This technology improves the motor and cognitive development of children, as well as their autonomy and motivation and even with their treatment. Although at the moment the robot is not able to respond, the integration of ChatGPT is already being studied so that the children are able to chat with Juande.

Guiomar is certainly coping well. When Juande speaks, she pays more attention and seems calmer. And he is here to stay. It is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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