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Ali Cohen, Claudia Ross, and Virginia Schreiber

Buddy is every child’s friend while at the hospital. Buddy helps children identify, express, and alter their emotions in a way that incudes the parents and nurses. Along with Buddy's physical form, we also offer an interactive app for parents to stay involved in their child's care and a nurse's chart plugin so nurses can stay up to date on how the child is feeling.

2023 Richard John Livingstone Martin Humanitarian Award Recipient 

overall buddy
UI/UX renderings
buddy expressions
buddy expressions

Research and Journey Mapping

We conducted an interview with Erica Arnau, a Child Life Specialist from CHOA. She describes her job as helping infants, children, youth and families cope with the stress and uncertainty of acute and chronic illness, injury, trauma, disability, loss and bereavement in the healthcare and community settings. With some key information from Erica and after attending a Journey Mapping Seminar held by Cognizant, we created a Journey Map for children receiving a shot. 

We used Medline resources to research each step of the process. This is the most common fear of children in a healthcare environment. We decided to follow the journey of both the child and parent since they both will be involved in the process.

Journey Mapping

Evolving Buddy

With our contacts, we were able to test emotional association with regards to LCD faces with children in our age range.

This was done by showing the user a face and asking what emotion it conveys. This helped us decide which faces Buddy should use with each emotion. Testing the effectiveness of recommended calming techniques was also included in our field research. We also tested the intuitive size and structure of Buddy with children and their different hand sizes.

We tested parents/caregivers on their navigation through the app by allowing them to use the app and surveying questions afterwards. For nurses, we tested ease of integration of app/system with the current hospital system.

preliminary wire frames
close up buddy


Buddy’s color scheme should be clean and neutral. The outside layer would be a semi transparent silicon with the inside layer being a light, neutral color like beige. The outside semi transparent layer allows the electronic face components to shine through.

Buddy will be made out of silicone as the outside layer for a calming squishy feeling as well as an ABS shell on the inside to house the electronic components of Buddy. The handle, feet, and dial will be a slightly harder silicone than the outside.

Buddy will have a translucent matte finish so the facial expression under the layer of silicone could be seen through. The inside layer would also be matte so as not to interfere or provide extra reflections distracting the viewer.

Form Evolution

clay buddy
buddy rendering
buddy model 1
buddy final model
buddy model 2
inner wire view


The code used to build Buddy’s faces pulls the images from a micro SD card that is inserted into the screen.

Each photo is pulled up on the screen and then given a specific “delay” value to remain on the screen before moving to the next photo on the SD card.

We configured Buddy to display his faces with a 3.5 LCD screen, programmed by an Arduino uno, powered by AA batteries. We also included a small bluetooth speaker.

The App

We decided to create an app for the parent rather than a website in order to allow notifications and personalizations not supported on the web. While creating the Buddy App, we wanted to keep the interface as simple as possible for the potentially overwhelmed parent. We therefore decided to display all of the needed information on the home page, allowing the user to click on each section to learn more.

parent app

The Nurse's Hub

The Nurse Hub allows nurses to monitor patients without being physically present. It is important for nurses to be aware of the emotional state of their patient. We designed the nurse’s hub to be as seamless as possible so as to not overwhelm them, while also conveying the key updates on patient’s well being. We included a real time chat function for the nurse to stay up to date with the parent and a tracking chart that updates with the emotional state of the patient.

nurse hub

Teaser Video

In our teaser video, we wanted to portray the context in which Buddy would be used, his general functions, and the importance of having a product like Buddy for the patient, the nurses, and the parents.

Our goal was to convey the care that everyone around a child feels for the child; whether a nurse or caretaker or parent. We evoked a hopeful feeling in our teaser video to convey that with innovation, we can help children on their journey.

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