Cool Hacked Wii Gadget Allows Babies To Drive Robots

Nov 18, 2010
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Babies with mobility issues, such as spina bifida or cerebral palsy, can’t explore the world like babies who can walk or crawl. Since babies explore and learn as part of infant development, mobility is linked with cognitive development.

At the RESNA (Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America) conference, doctors presented a paper calling independent mobility crucial for infants. “Children with physical disabilities and restricted mobility have been found to demonstrate increased dependence, frustration, depressed motivation, lack of curiosity, and a lack of confidence,” they wrote. These doctors recommended that babies should take to driving robots enhanced with sonar capabilities.

They created a baby robo-chair by placing the baby into a baby seat that is strapped onto a Wii Fit Balance Board that sits atop a Pioneer 3 robot platform. This ingenious invention works for even 7-month-old infants as the robot will travel in whatever path and direction in which the baby leans. The built-in sonar keeps babies safe by avoiding collisions.

Researchers wrote, “The balance board has responsive pressure sensors in each of its four corners and built in Bluetooth capabilities. We use a commercial Bluetooth adapter and WiiYourself! C++ library (ti) to access balance board data within our robotics software. Our software compares the values of the four pressure sensors to determine which, if any, direction the infant is leaning. When a sustained lean is detected the robot begins to move in that direction. When the child reaches out for an item, he or she leans in the direction of the item and moves toward it. We believe this will be the most intuitive method for a young child to learn to use.”

Since each child moves in a different way, the robo-chair can be customized. Parents or therapists can use a wireless joystick as a master override switch if needed.

Previous research documented studies that children with physical disabilities may “achieve significant development benefits from the use of powered mobility, including interaction with the environment and contact with others, self-initiated independent movement, positive affect, and communication.”

Although more scientific study is planned, preliminary tests proved promising. Babies age 7 to 9 months “were able to move the robot as they leaned to get an offered toy or drink. Children were also observed to move the robot spontaneously when they were not being directly offered something or coaxed.”

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Author: Tessa



  • Kwiley01

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