Belgian scientists are developing a cuddly green robot to help ease the anxieties of children in hospital.

Probo the robot has a touchscreen on its stomach which is intended to explain operations to children. The robot also makes facial expressions intended to show how medical procedures will make the child feel.

"The main goal of this project is to have emotional communication with children," said Jelle Saldien, one of the researchers from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Free University of Brussels) design team at Probo's unveiling on Tuesday.

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Probo is the brainchild of Ivan Hermans, president of the Anty Foundation, a non-profit organization set up to design the robot. He had the idea after seeing the film "I, Robot."

Probo's fuzzy green head and short trunk are fully automated and the touchscreen displays emotions from pleasure to disgust. The robot will also detect faces and make eye contact.

When hugged or petted it purrs, and when punched or squeezed it says ouch, but the robot cannot yet hug back.

After further improvements it will be made available for hospitals and research institutes. The costs of the project have not been announced.