Robin – An autonomous robot toddler for diabetic children

Robin (a contraction of “Robot Infant”) is an autonomous robot toddler with “robot diabetes”. Developed by Lola Cañamero and Matthew Lewis to help children improve their confidence and skills in managing their own diabetes. Children can play with Robin, help satisfy his social and physical needs, and detect and correct diabetes-related symptoms.

The hardware is a standard Aldebaran NAO humanoid robot. Robin's behavior is controlled by software based on the principles of embodied AI, and our two decades of research into motivation in autonomous robots, modeled in terms of homeostatic control of essential variables. The use of an embodied AI autonomous robot allows unscripted, natural and personalized interactions. Our interaction scenario fosters the children's creativity and spontaneous behavior. Since Robin has diabetes, during the course of the interaction he may show symptoms of hypo- or hyper-glycemia, in which case the children can check Robin's glucose using the wireless glucometer in order to determine what actions need to be taken to manage the robot's “blood sugar”.

Robin was initially developed as part of the EC-funded ALIZ-E project for use with Italian diabetic children. It was initially tested in Italy interacting with seventeen patients at a hospital and at a summer camp for diabetic children. After the end of the ALIZ-E project, Robin was modified for use with British children, and we are continuing to develop the interaction through a series of studies in order to improve its effectiveness.

We are also grateful for funding that would allow us to continue this work. Please get in touch if you would like to sponsor it.


Academic Publications

Lewis, M. & Cañamero L. (2018).  Robin: An Autonomous Robot for Diabetic Children. Proc. UK-RAS Network Conference on Robotics and Autonomous Systems, 2017.
Winner: 1st Prize, Best Paper
Cañamero, L. & Lewis M. (2016).  Making New “New AI” Friends: Designing a Social Robot for Diabetic Children from an Embodied AI Perspective. International Journal of Social Robotics. 8(4), 523–537.
Lewis, M., Oleari E., Pozzi C. & Cañamero L. (2015).  An Embodied AI Approach to Individual Differences: Supporting Self-Efficacy in Diabetic Children with an Autonomous Robot. (Tapus, A., André E., Martin J-C., Ferland F., & Ammi M., Ed.). Proc. 7th International Conference on Social Robotics (ICSR-2015). 401–410.
Lewis, M. & Cañamero L. (2014).  An Affective Autonomous Robot Toddler to Support the Development of Self-Efficacy in Diabetic Children. Proc. 23rd Annual IEEE International Symposium on Robot and Human Interactive Communication (IEEE RO-MAN 2014). 359–364.

Public Engagement

In addition to academic conferences, Robin has been demonstrated at several events aimed at the general public or audiences in different areas.


The Robin Project has been funded by:

  • European Union FP7 Programme (as part of the ALIZ-E project),
  • University of Hertfordshire “Proof of Concept” awards,
  • University of Hertfordshire Diamond Fund Opportunity Award,
  • University of Hertfordshire Early Career and Returning to Research Grant.

We are also grateful to all the medical staff, families and individuals who have generously given their time and provided personal insights into life with diabetes.