A robotic wheelchair is being developed that will help children learn to 'drive'. Researchers writing in BioMed Central's open access Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation describe the testing of ROLY –RObot-assisted Learning for Young drivers – in a group of children without disabilities and one child with cerebral palsy.
Laura Marchal-Crespo, worked with a team of researchers at the University of California at Irvine, USA, to carry out the study. She said, "The conventional approach for powered wheelchair driver's training is expensive and labor-intense, typically requiring the hand-over-hand assistance of a skilled therapist. To lower the cost and improve accessibility to training, we have developed a robotic powered wheelchair system on which young children with a disability can safely develop driving skills at their own pace with minimum assistance".
The researcher's technique involves the trainee learning to chase a small robot along a line painted on the floor. The force feedback joystick used to steer the wheelchair can also give physical assistance to the driver, at a level appropriate to their ongoing performance. When caught, the robot performs a dance and the chair plays a little tune. The joystick haptic assistance was found to enhance learning in both the non-disabled children trained with haptic guidance and in the child with a severe motor impairment. Speaking about the results, Marchal-Crespo said, "Ultimately, we envision creating a training experience that compares favorably with the fun children experience with the best amusement park rides, but that facilitates the development of driving skill".
Notes to Editors:
1. A robotic wheelchair trainer: design overview and a feasibility study
Laura Marchal-Crespo, Jan Furumasu and David J Reinkensmeyer
Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation
During embargo, article available here: http://www.jneuroengrehab.com/imedia/1941775124362230_article.pdf?random=267569
After embargo, published article available here: http://www.jneuroengrehab.com/
Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central's open access policy.
2. An image of the wheelchair in use is available here: http://www.biomedcentral.com/graphics/email/images/robot_chair.jpg
3. Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation (JNER) is an open access, peer-reviewed online journal that aims to foster the publication of research work that results from cross-fertilization of the fields of neuroscience, biomedical engineering, and physical medicine & rehabilitation.
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