He can sing, dance and perform tai chi, but B-Positive robot’s most important role is distraction.

The 58-cm-tall humanoid robot is the smallest member of the team at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, N.S., but his job is no less vital. The robot is tasked with easing the nerves of young patients in the waiting room before they go in for blood work.

He can tell stories, play rock-paper-scissors or Simon Says, and sing a show-stopping rendition of “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen. He can also teach various cognitive behavioural strategies, such as deep breathing, to help young patients cope during medical procedures.

“Parents and kids both really enjoy having the robot,” said Jennifer Parker, research associate with the Centre for Pediatric Pain Research. B-Positive is part of the latest study by the centre to assess methods for pain reduction among kids aged 4 to 15. Distraction is known to help with pain management, and the staff at the clinic have already been seeing results. Plus, they like the bot too.

“We love him, we really do,” said nurse Debi Sweeney. “He’s so cool.”

The robot has made many of the kids’ experiences at the clinic more pleasant than painful, the nurse said. “It’s something we’re able to talk about while we’re doing their blood collection, so it helps calm them from the overthinking about having the blood work done,” said Sweeney. “We can do it, but sometimes something new can help them even better.”

Though the clinic has named the robot B-Positive, a play on blood type and optimism, it was originally named NAO by creators SoftBank Robotics. The robot is available for purchase by companies and educators for nearly US$10,000. NAO was originally made in 2006 as the company’s first humanoid robot, but SoftBank has since added more humanoids to its small fleet, including the 140-cm-tall robot called ROMEO who was “designed to explore and further research into assisting elderly people and those who are losing their autonomy.”

Their uses go beyond health and education. NAO bots have competed in international robotics competitions, including the RoboCup -- Robot Soccer World Cup -- in which teams of robots compete in a soccer tournament.

With a report from CTV Atlantic’s Jayson Baxter