Onto the real reason of my post. Children who have developmental disabilities (autism, Down Syndrome, etc) or physical disabilities (cerebral palsy, etc) don't get the interaction with their enviornments that other infants do. Mostly because of delays in crawling and walking. So three researchers at the University of Delaware got together and built a "robot" that babies can drive. Sunil Agrawal, professor of mechanical engineering, James Galloway, associate professor of physical therapy, and Ji-Chul Ryu, a doctoral candidate in UD’s Department of Mechanical Engineering built the UD1 (pictured above). Infants as young as 7 months have learned to maneuver it!
From the article:
“If these infants were adults, therapists would have options of assistive technology such as power wheelchairs,” Galloway said. “Currently, children with significant mobility impairments are not offered power mobility until they are 5-6 years of age, or older. This delay in mobility is particularly disturbing when you consider the rapid brain development during infancy. Their actions, feelings and thinking all shape their own brain's development. Babies literally build their own brains through their exploration and learning in the complex world.”
When a baby starts crawling and walking, everything changes for everyone involved. “Now consider the negative impact of a half decade of immobility for an infant with already delayed development,” Galloway said. “When a baby doesn't crawl or walk, everything also changes. Immobility changes the infant, and the family. Given the need, you would think that the barriers to providing power mobility must be insurmountable. In fact, the primary barrier is safety.” Therapists and parents fear a young child in a power wheelchair might mistakenly go the wrong way, end up in a roadway and get hit by a car."
The model now in development will have a remote control for the parents to use to steer their child clear of any danger. If you want to read more about the UD1 here is the article. I find this all very fascinating but I studied child development and speech pathology so I am a little biased.