Wii Balance Board Powers Baby-Moving Robot

Children and adults with movement impairing handicaps have access to many devices to help them get around, but what about disabled infants? Researchers have come up with a baby-moving robot that uses a Wii Balance Board as its guide.

A team of researchers from Ithaca College in New York have developed a rather clever way to give movement-impaired babies mobility without utilizing the often complicated controls found in powered wheelchairs and other movement granting devices.

See babies may possess a certain amount of street smarts, but they lack the subtle grasp of grasping things and other advanced motor skills needed to control even the simplest of machines. What babies do have is baby urges, and when they have such urges they often express them by leaning towards whatever it is they want.

So the University of Ithaca researchers have created a device that moves the way a baby leans.

The Tots on Bots Project consists of a wheeled Pioneer 3 robot platform for a base, a baby seat for the baby to sit in, and a Wii Balance Board positioned between the two. Using a commercial Bluetooth adapter and the WiiYourself! C++ library, the four corners of the Wii Balance Board transmit information to the robotics software when the baby leans in a certain direction. The robot base uses that information to move the baby towards whatever they want, be it a delicious piece of fruit or an unfortunately placed electrical socket.

The Pioneer base uses sonar to keep from knocking into things, and there's also an override stick so that a responsible adult can take control if need be, or an irresponsible adult can play the most inappropriate game of Frogger ever.

Kidding aside, this really is an ingenious way to give handicapped babies mobility, playing off of their strengths - leaning - without having to rely on their weaknesses - just about everything else, outside of drooling.

Babies Take the Wheel of Driving Robots [Technology Review via Gizmodo]