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A group of biomedical engineers and physical therapists at the University of Oklahoma (OU) have developed a ground-breaking medical device that has babies at risk of developing cerebral palsy scooting their way from room to room.
IEEE Spectrum reports that after an encouraging study done on a robot with power steering, a team comprised of innovative OU engineers and therapists developed it into a motorized device that assists babies at risk for cerebral palsy develop with both cognitive skills and motor skills.
The power steering robot device comes with an electrode-studded cap that’s worn by the infants while they lay down on a state-of-the-art learning machine that resembles a seat scooter. While the infant plays and moves around, the electrodes from the cap tracks and transmits brain activity.
One of the researchers involved, a physical therapist, Thubi Kolobe, previously developed a way to to predict which premature babies would be likely to develop disorders such as cerebral palsy. Afterwards, she collaborated with engineering professors David, Miller, Andrew Fagg, and Lei Ding, and the team began working on a device to help infants at risk for cerebral palsy to explore, while at the same receive positive encouragement. According to Fagg,
“As soon as you start to crawl, the world seems like a much bigger place. We hope, with the crawling, we’ll set them up to build other capabilities that will be really important later on in life.”
The device, called Self-Initiated Prone Progression Crawler (SIPPC), rolls on three wheels as the baby lays on the soft, cushion pad, while strapped onto the device with safety straps. The device has 12 movement sensors that, at a rate of fifty times per second, pick up on the baby’s movements. The movements are then posted in 3-D on a monitor. SIPPC also has cameras mounted onto it that captures the baby’s limbs movements.
Although the device looks promising, it still has another six to nine months of study to go. During this time, according to Fagg, they’ll need to go through a staggering amount of data, as one session produces around 10 GB of data. Currently, the team is working on going through a little over 1,000 sessions.
“It’s wearing everybody down,” said Fagg.
Yet, as they work their way to through the data, the new results are matching up to initial results of the pilot study, which is not only encouraging those who’ve been working so hard on the device, but also parents who have babies who are at risk of developing cerebral palsy.
In fact, parents with children who participated in the study are so happy with their babys’ progress that they want to buy their own SIPPC for home use. Yet, Fagg says that having the device for personal use is a long way off, and would be filled with studies on a much bigger scale.
“One needs to do a much larger-scale study with researchers at several universities. In the long run, we’d like to be there, but we need to do the science first.”
Watch below as a group of adorable babies use the SIPCC for the first time.