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Babies Driving Robots at University
Date:11/9/2007

r playground," Galloway said. "With the robot, they become the center of attention because their classmates want to try it. We predict that this increased social interaction alone will provide an important boost in their cognitive development."

The idea sprang from a parking lot conversation in which Agrawal approached Galloway, who he knew worked with babies with special needs, and said he might have developed something of interest. Agrawal is a robotics expert who had been developing a fleet of small, rounded robots that could work as a unit through a wireless network.

Galloway knew of Agrawal's successes with rehabilitation robotics for adults but admitted to being anti-robot for pediatric rehabilitation at first. Galloway was convinced otherwise within minutes of his first visit to Agrawal's laboratory. "When I saw his little robots, it was easy to envision a baby driving one," he said. "We knew from our previous work that newly reaching infants could use a joystick to control a distant toy. This and other research strongly suggests that very young infants can be trained in real world navigation. It was a special feeling to see a potential solution to a really serious healthcare gap for young kids. There was and still is a special tingle when we think of the not so distant future. "

Thus, UD1 was born. The researchers took their robot to the UD Early Learning Center, which has a wide range of infants, a gymnasium for initial training on the robot and a varied outdoor landscape to use as a test track.

"It was a relief when we saw that the children quickly grasped the use of the joystick," Agrawal said. "If they had just sat there or cried, it would have been back to the drawing board. But over time we have seen them gradually increase their time with the robot and the amount of distance they cover."

The project will now move on to a second generation with more than one robot. The goal is to place multiple mobile robots with spec
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SOURCE University of Delaware
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