Ithaca College researchers, as part of their ongoing "Tots on Bots" study, are nearing the end of their first session with five-month-old infants, during which they studied the infants' abilities to use a robotic wheelchair.
The researchers attached a Wii Balance Board to a flat surface on the top of the robots with a small seat for the baby. The robotic wheelchair enables infant users to move around a room by leaning in the direction they want to go. The Wii Balance Board is calibrated when the infant is sitting up straight and can sense extra pressure in any area of the board. In addition, the robot has panels on the front that can sense other objects and stop before hitting them, according to the researchers. They also developed software that enables the robot to communicate with the Wii Balance Board to determine which way the baby is leaning.
"We have the sense that if we are able to demonstrate having the option to move makes a difference in one's thinking abilities, that provides more evidence for why we should provide mobility options to babies with disabilities much earlier than we do now," says Ithaca College professor Carole Dennis.
From The Ithican
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