The newest member of the Red Deer Victim Services team is a robot named Ard-E.
The winning name for the first bot to be used by a police detachment in the world, according to the RCMP, was submitted by six-year-old Red Deer resident Laney Read.
“It sounds like the letter ‘R’ and the letter ‘D’ and is like Red Deer,” she said when the name was unveiled Thursday morning. “But it has to be a robot name like Wall-E!”
The MEDi robot was purchased by Red Deer Victim Services through donations, according to an RCMP press release. It will be put to use to help and support children going through police and court proceedings.
Ard-E is almost two-feet tall and can talk, sing, dance and play games in a way that adults can’t.
At the unveiling, Ard-E showed off its speaking skills, saying “Have you ever tried to take a deep breath when you are nervous?”
As reporters took the robot’s picture, Ard-E said, “I hope you are getting my good side.”
The robot also sang the wildly popular song Let It Go from the Disney movie Frozen.
It is the same MEDi robot that is helping children get through stressful procedures, shots and tests at hospitals in Canada and the United States.
Inspector Gerald Grobmeier of the Red Deer RCMP said the robot gives police another tool to work with kids who have experienced traumatic events.
“No matter what we do as police officers or adults in helping kids get through it, we are still adults, and frequently they have been hurt by adults, so it’s very difficult to overcome those barriers,” he said.
“There are things we can say as adults that kids don’t really hear but when a robot who is almost the same age tells you this, it seems to resonate more with them. It’s all about trying to make a bad situation a little bit better for them.”
In addition to a prize pack, young Read will be invited back to the detachment and be made honourary, “Police Chief for the Day.”
The contest was launched Jan. 7th and was open to children ages five to 14. The RCMP received more than 200 submissions and the final winner was selected by public vote after the top three robot names were narrowed down.