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Cheeky Ruben is just 7 and learning to read. But thanks to his new knee-high buddy Charlie robot he can expertly measure his blood sugar and count carbohydrates in a glass of milk. There are roughly some 6,000 children across The Netherlands with Type 1 childhood diabetes.Now thanks to a unique collaboration between health care professionals, robotics engineers and academics in the Netherlands, Italy, German and Britain, families struggling to learn about the illness and manage it on a daily basis have a new life coach on their side.He's a friendly red-and-white robot called Charlie, with arms and legs, big round eyes and speakers as ears, who can talk and dance.Young patients can chat with Charlie during clinic visits – currently two hospitals in The Netherlands and one in Italy are participating.Charlie asks Ruben in one play session, referring to hypoglycemia when blood sugars are too low.Charlie can talk – in Dutch and Italian at the moment – but the questions are also written out on a tablet in front of the child, with an answer and a line "true or false?"Researchers are now expanding the trials to better assess the needs of children and parents, as well as improving Charlie's voice and making his interactions more conversational.
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