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Training special needs infants to drive mobile robots using force-feedback joystick

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3 Author(s)
Sunil K. Agrawal ; University of Delaware, Newark, 19716, USA ; Xi Chen ; James C. Galloway

In typically developing infants, the onset of crawling and walking is associated with changes across development domains such as cognition and perception ([1], [2]). Currently, infants born with significant mobility impairments do not use powered wheelchairs until three years of age [3]. This potentially limits their development in the early growth years. The goal of this research is to train infants with impairments to safely and purposefully drive a mobile robot indoors while being seated on it. We anticipate that these impaired infants will benefit from early mobility in their early years, similar to their healthy peers. Our studies with 3-12 month old infants have shown that in about six weeks of training on the mobile robot, infants can learn to drive purposefully using conventional joysticks [4]. However, they are unable to directionally control the mobile robot [5]. This poses limits on how infants can drive independently within a home environment. This paper is the first to show novel results where special needs infants learn how to make sharp turns during driving, when trained over a 5-day period with a force-feedback joystick. The joystick simulates a virtual tunnel around an intended path with turns. During training, if the infant driver moves the mobile robot outside this tunnel centered around the desired path, the driver experiences a bias corrective force on the hand. This assist-as-needed paradigm may be suitable for infant driving training and has worked well in other studies on functional training of human movements [6].

Published in:

Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2010 IEEE International Conference on

Date of Conference:

3-7 May 2010