SamBuddy, the storytelling cuddle for education, elderly care and healthcare

Almost half of the children who are bullied do not share it with an adult. As a result, these children experience loneliness, lack of self-confidence and even depression. By letting these children share their problems with a robot, they can more easily overcome the struggles they experience.


In addition to the aforementioned challenges, almost 4% of Dutch children
between 4 and 12 years old have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum
disorder. These children often have a hard time communicating with other
people. Studies have shown that children with autism are more willing to
talk to a social robot than other people. By allowing these children to share
their problems with a social robot, they can more easily overcome the
struggles they experience, making communication with other children


The SAMbuddy Storytelling Cuddle is a Social Robot intended for children
with a disability or who are dealing with social emotional problems and are
looking for a buddy where they can tell their story. Due to the growing
workload in education and care, we see an increase in functional attention
and a decrease in personal attention. The SAMbuddy therefore aims to
build a friendly, trusting relationship with which children feel comfortable.
SAMbuddy therefore provides safe attention and a listening ear, when
guidance from others is not possible for a while.


01 September 2020 - 01 July 2021


A consortium of social companies have developed and implemented this
robot in collaboration with the Social Robotics program of Hogeschool
Utrecht and the Media Psychology research group of VU University
Amsterdam. During the construction, specific attention was paid to the
(technical) design, but organizational and ethical issues were also taken into
account during the design process.

The robot has been extensively tested with 55 children in a primary school
environment. The results of these tests show that children have a high
degree of confidence in the SAMbuddy and that they also like to share their
feelings with the robot. This shows that the robot can play an important
role and will be highly accepted by children. This will not only promote the
well-being of children, but also ease the workload of teachers. The
SAMbuddy is now used at 10 different schools and organizations.

"Children in groups 1 to 3 often have their own favourite cuddly toy that makes them feel safe."

Joanne Coes  

Extra information

More information about the SAMbuddy project.

The SAMbuddy project has been nominated for the Computable Awards 2021,

HU researchers involved in the research

  • Matthijs Smakman
    • Professor
    • Research group: Smart Systems for Healthy Living
  • Sam Leewis
    Sam Leewis
    • Researcher
    • Research group: Digital Ethics
  • Koen Smit | Researcher | Research group Digital Smart Services
    Koen Smit
    • Researcher
    • Research group: Digital Ethics

Related research groups

Collaboration with knowledge partners


Would you like to collaborate or do you have any questions?

Matthijs Smakman

  • Professor
  • Research group: Smart Systems for Healthy Living