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Physiotherapy. 2012 Sep;98(3):230-7. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2012 Jul 27.

Development of robotic mobility for infants: rationale and outcomes.

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  • 1Department of Physical Therapy, Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA.



To assess the feasibility of a robotic mobility device for infants using alternative control interfaces aimed at promoting early self-initiated mobility, and to assess the effects of a training protocol and robot experience.


Observational and pre-post quantitative case studies.


Standardised, research laboratory and day-care centres with toys and individuals familiar to infants.


Children with and without disabilities, aged 5 months to 3 years.


In each study, infants were seated over a Pioneer™ 3-DX mobile robot. Some infants controlled the directional movement of the robot by weight shifting their body on a Nintendo® Wii™ Balance Board (the WeeBot), while others used a modified joystick. Infants participated in five sessions over 2 to 5 weeks. Sessions consisted of administering a 10-minute training protocol preceded and followed by 2 to 3 minutes of free play. One child with motor impairment used a button switch array and a different experimental design.


From the videotaped free-play periods, goal-directed behaviours were coded and time in motion was measured. In the training period, a scoring system was developed to measure the infants' driving performance.


Preliminary outcomes indicate that infants without disabilities, aged 5 to 10 months, demonstrated significant improvement in driving performance and goal-directed movement using the WeeBot. Infants who used the joystick were less successful on all measures. Results for infants with disabilities using the WeeBot were mixed.


Mobile robots offer promise to enhance the development of early self-mobility. Novel types of interfaces, such as the WeeBot, warrant further investigation.

Copyright © 2012 Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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