Robots in the Hands of Babes
November 27, 2007 (WPVI) -- University of Delaware researchers are putting robotic vehicles in the hands of babies -- infants not even old enough to crawl.
Researchers at the University of Delaware have discovered that even four-month-olds can operate a crude-looking but technically sophisticated robot.
"We're doing something pretty pioneering," explained associate professor Cole Galloway.
Cutting-edge technology feels like pure joy to 6-month-old Aniya, but the robot is no toy.
Hope is the machine with its computer driven sensors and wheels will open up a whole new world to babies with special needs, like ten-month-old Aubry who is visually impaired.
It didn't take researchers long to discover their best test drivers aren't even crawling yet because these kids soon discover this thing gets them around.
Aniya is not disabled, but she is proving what experts at the University of Delaware's Early Learning Center have known all along. The best time to teach children is during infancy, and that includes disabled children who are now forced to wait until ages three to five-years-old for motorized wheelchairs.
"Special need kids could use that as a tool to navigate in the mall or main street, places that they would otherwise not be able to do such at an early age," said professor Sunil Agrawa.
University of Delaware researchers are hoping local parents of disabled infants will allow their children to test out the robot called simply UD1. Hope is the prototype will one day be ready for mass production.
"Everything we've seen is suggesting that we've got a real shot of getting special needs kids in the community in a Mars Rover-type explorer," said Galloway.
(Copyright 2007 by Action News and 6abc. All rights reserved.)
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