Infant-Controlled Mobility Device

Babies with mobility disabilities can't take full advantage of powered wheelchairs and exoskeletons that require substantial coordination. So Cornell University graduate student Madeline Smith developed a powered chair that moves in any direction that a baby leans:

But it's the control mechanism on this particular baby robo-chair that's the real genius: by sticking the baby into a seat strapped onto a Wii Fit Balance Board perched atop a Pioneer 3 robot platform, researchers from Ithaca College created a robot that travels in whatever direction a baby leans.[...]

Anyone who has watched a toddler "get her wheels" might wonder at the wisdom of interpreting that phrase too literally, but the Pioneer 3 has safety all taken care of: it uses built-in sonar to avoid collisions.

There's also a master override joystick that allows the therapist - or, eventually, a parent - to drive the robo-chair away from obstacles or stop it dead in its tracks. (And what new parent wouldn't be both amused and grateful to be able to drive his or her baby around the house as if he or she were a radio-controlled car?)

Link via Gizmodo | Photo: Madeline Smith

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