An Australian start-up has received government funding to refine its prototype still under development: a robot companion and medical observer for sick children outside of hospital.
Named “ikki”, the robot is the brainchild of scientists Clive McFarland and Colin Stahel, in conjunction with industrial designer Seaton McKeon, and is being developed by their start-up business Ikkiworks.
ikki has been designed to improve the therapy outcomes of sick kids, like those undergoing cancer treatment, beyond the direct supervision of hospital staff, such as when they are at home.
According to its website, the robot incorporates software and sensors that allow it to monitor patients, record their temperature as an early detection sign for infection, provide reminders when medications are due and report data back to clinicians.
At the same time, ikki is designed to act as a companion for these children, distracting them from their illness and stress of treatments by playing music and various sounds, telling stories and acting as a bedtime night light that can be turned out with a single breath, like blowing out a candle.
“ikki has some amazing abilities. It monitors medication, measures temperature using infrared, it reminds families when medication is due and registers that it’s the correct medicine being given,” Dr McFarland said.
“It can warn families if a child is getting a temperature which can be very dangerous in young patients with suppressed immune systems. The clinical team can also monitor the temperature and medication data online and adjust the treatment regime accordingly.
“ikki is also a great companion. Parents can record songs and stories and ikki plays them back on cue. If a child talks to ikki, it will talk back in its own ikki language.”
The NSW government-backed program Jobs for NSW announced funding of $25,000 to Ikkiworks to help fund its ongoing development, in the form of a Minimum Viable Product Grant.
“Ikkiworks is a fantastic example of the great health technology that is being developed here in NSW and how our range of support products, including grants, assist start-ups and fast-growing SMEs to succeed,” said Jobs for NSW CEO Nicole Cook.
A larger trial is planned for ikki, with the company envisioning a broader rollout of its robots for adults, including those with chronic illnesses and the elderly, as well as anyone undergoing rehabilitation.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.