Companion robot helps monitor sick children

Startup company Ikkiworks has developed a companion robot to help soothe and monitor the vital signs of sick children while they are at home and away from hospital.

The robot, called ‘ikki’, has been developed with input from staff, patients and their families at Westmead Children’s Hospital.

Ikkiworks has been supported with a $25,000 Minimum Viable Product grant from Jobs for NSW to help refine its ikki prototype by making it more robust for use with children.

Ikkiworks co-founder Clive McFarland said ikki monitors the vital signs of sick children – such as those who are undergoing cancer treatment – when they are away from hospital while also providing a soothing companion.

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“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,” said McFarland.

“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.

“Also, if a child is feeling anxious ikki can help soothe them. ikki’s head lights up and the child can blow it out like a candle which helps with breath calming. But most importantly, ikki empowers the child by giving them a key role in their own treatment,” he said.

Ikkiworks plans a larger trial of its ikki robot, and believes its technology has the potential to be adapted to assist in a wide range of situations, including patients with chronic illnesses, people undergoing rehabilitation, and the elderly.

The NSW Government recently developed a strategy to help grow the medical technology sector.

NSW is home to the nation’s largest medtech industry with about 1,100 businesses – 37 per cent of Australia’s total – that generate $4.8 billion a year, export $573 million in products, and employ about 7,000 people.

Jobs for NSW CEO Nicole Cook said Ikkiworks is a fantastic example of the great health technology that is being developed in NSW.