A six-year-old Red Deerian was inspired by one of her favourite movies when she pitched the winning name for the new robot helping youngsters at Red Deer victim services.
Laney Read suggested the robot be named Ard-E, and the majority of the 567 people who voted in the recent online contest agreed.
“She right away came up with the Ard-E name. She loves the Disney robot Wall-E, and she wanted the Red Deer robot to sound like Wall-E’s name,” said Laney’s mom, Tanya.
Laney said Ard-E also sounds like the letters R and D, like the city of Red Deer.
More than 200 names were submitted to the contest and the top runners up were Astro and Charlie.
The MEDi robot, which is about .6 metres tall, helps and supports children through police and court proceedings.
“Originally developed for use in the medical field, the robot interacts with children in a way adults simply can’t, making stressful and often frightening situations a little less overwhelming for children,” said Red Deer RCMP Insp. Gerald Grobmeier at the announcement of the robot’s name on Thursday.
He said the robot will work with victims of crime and trauma in the Red Deer area to assist and provide comfort to children when they participate in interviews, and it will be particularly helpful in court preparations.
“The robot walks through the process with children, telling them exactly what to expect, even teaching them to use deep breathing when they’re anxious,” Grobmeier said.
Red Deer RCMP Const. Nicole Quick, the program manager for victim services, said Ard-E is the first robot to be part of a victim services unit and police detachment.
The robot can talk, dance, sing and play games, and so far, seven children and youth, between the ages of four and 15, have interacted with Ard-E.
“The kids were smiling. They were laughing. He’s working well in the unit so far,” Quick said.
Victim services already has a therapy dog, which is usually a hit, but it can make some children scared or nervous, she said.
“The robot has not made any kids scared yet. Most kids are pretty infatuated with it.”
Funding for Ard-E came from the RCMP Regimental Ball, Border Paving and other donations.