Robot helps children learn how to operate wheelchairs

(RxWiki News) ROLY (RObot-assisted Learning for Young drivers) teaches child wheelchair users how to get where they're going with minimum assistance.

A new study from the University of California, Irvine, finds the teaching technique, which replaces expensive, labor-intensive assistance from a skilled therapist, lowers cost for recipients and improves accessibility to training for powered wheelchair operators.

The study followed a group of children without disabilities and one child with cerebral palsy. (Cerebral palsy, thought to be a combination of disorders, can involve brain and nervous system functions such as movement, hearing, vision, reasoning and cognition.)

The children learned how to operate their wheelchairs by learning to chase a small robot along a painted line on the floor. A joystick steering device, which was found to enhance learning in both non-disabled children and the child with motor impairment, also delivers physical assistance to the driver at varying levels according to performance.

When the robot is captured, it performs a tune and dances.

Laura Marchal-Crespo, who worked with researchers at the UC-Irvine to carry out the study, said the ultimate goal is to create a training experience that rates with the fun children experience while riding amusement park rides.

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Review Date: 
January 28, 2011