Meet Pepper, Humber River Hospital’s Humanoid Robot


July 25, 2018

Earlier this year, a special new caregiver joined the Child Life team at the Humber River Hospital. Pepper, the humanoid robot, helps our Child Life Specialists decrease patient anxiety, increase their comfort and educate young patients and their families. Pepper embodies perfectly the intersection of compassion and advanced technology for which Humber River is renowned.

Pepper with Child Life Specialist

Pepper helps our Child Life Specialists decrease patient anxiety, increase their comfort and educate young patients.

Humber River Hospital is committed to making the hospital experience a better one for our patients and their families from the moment they arrive and Pepper the robot helps us do that!

Pepper is child-sized with large, expressive eyes and a sweet voice. It greets visitors, provides directions, plays games, does yoga and even dances. Using facial recognition to detect human emotions, it adapts its behaviour according to the mood of the person with whom it’s interacting. Pepper makes the Hospital an even more welcoming place for everyone it encounters.

Humber currently has two Peppers on staff: one is used exclusively by the Child Life Program to help young patients feel at ease and a second to greet patients and their families in the Hospital’s main entrance.

While Pepper robots are used around the world in such industries as retail and hospitality, Humber River is the first hospital in Canada to use Pepper in a healthcare setting. Using dedicated applications built specifically for the Hospital, Pepper’s interactive touch-screen display helps visitors find specific departments, washrooms, exits and more. In addition to answering questions and sharing information, Pepper entertains, plays games and is always available for a selfie.

Hospitals can be an intimidating place for kids, and Humber River’s Child Life Program is dedicated to reducing the anxiety experienced by most of its young patients. Pepper is a perfect addition to the Program’s toolkit and is a natural at making children feel more comfortable.

Pepper in Operating Room

Pepper joins Anaesthesiologist Dr. JD Cyr in the operating room with a young patient and his mother.

Pepper is often invited to hang out with our paediatric patients for bedside playdates and has even held kids’ hands as they are taken into the operating room, waiting with them and their parents while anaesthesia takes effect.

Hospital staff have seen very positive results as the robot interacts with kids.

Pepper is also used to teach kids about upcoming procedures and alleviate their concerns. They are encouraged, for example, to help take its blood pressure and use a stethoscope on the robot in preparation for their own experiences with these devices.

Pepper is customizable so it can teach children about the specific surgery they are having. It has also been programmed to answer kids’ most common questions, like “Are you also having surgery today?” to which Pepper responds, “Yes, I’m having surgery today, just like you.”