Infants and toddlers suffering from cerebral palsy often have impaired mobility, which some specialists believe to have a dramatic negative impact on a child’s independence and brain development.
“We think that babies with disabilities are missing an opportunity for learning that typically developing babies have,” said Carole Dennis, a professor of occupational therapy at Ithaca College. Dennis is involved in a recent effort to solve this issue through the use of mobile robots.
She and her team have created a model designed specifically for young, disabled children, which allows them to move around independently by shifting their weight forward, back, or from side to side. “What I think is exciting is that we’re pushing the age envelope much and much younger,” said a professor from the University of Oklahoma after learning of the new robot, called the WeeBot.
The invention is indeed unique in the field, in that it is not controlled by a joystick or steering device, but by the babies’ leaning and motions alone.