By Guest Blogger Dr. Alison Cernich, Ph.D. Director, National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research (NCMRR)
Two young buddies, Siddharth Bhavani, 11, and Samuel Tucker, 10, both of Bowie, Md., checked out a robot exhibit at the Smithsonian’s Innovation Festival earlier this year. Playing on the floor with a small skateboard-like device designed to help disabled babies crawl, the boys summed up the value of medical rehabilitation research.
“I think this is good for babies,” said an earnest Samuel. Siddharth agreed: “If a baby can’t move a limb, how can they get around?”
Chief engineer and physical therapist Peter E. Pidcoe, MBA, from Virginia Commonwealth University, had those same thoughts when he designed the BabyBot, an assistive device developed with funding from NICHD’s National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research (NCMRR). The device is composed of a sophisticated web of wires and sensors tucked into a robotic, padded board. When a baby lies belly down on the board, sensors pick up signals, gestures, and any slight movement, offering a gentle robotic nudge of encouragement.
It’s a fairly simple concept with a complex, high-tech design.