Darwin is a robot physical therapy assistant to help kids with cerebral palsy

darwin robot physical therapy
Could robots have a future helping kids with pathologies like cerebral palsy, a condition that often involves impaired muscle coordination and other disabilities? Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology think so.

They are investigating the use of pint-sized robots in pediatric therapy, specifically to encourage children to play an active role in physical therapy.

“We’re designing socially interactive robots that can engage children with disabilities in therapy activities, performed in the home environment,” professor Ayanna Howard, who leads the Darwin project, told Digital Trends. “Therapy is designed to help children in achieving their developmental milestones — whether a child with cerebral palsy, child with autism spectrum disorder, or a child recovering from a traumatic brain injury. Our robot is designed to function in the home, to supplement services provided by a human clinician, by engaging with them in therapy exercises just as a clinician does — interacting with them, monitoring their performance, and encouraging them with both motivational and corrective feedback.”

darwin robot physical therapy 15c10201 p8 001
Ayanna Howard with her robot.

In experiments carried out by Howard and her colleagues, 3D-motion trackers monitored the subjects’ movements as Darwin offered encouragements while movements were performed — as well as demonstrating them when they were not performed correctly. With the exception of one isolated case, the robot had a significantly positive impact on kids’ physical activity.

“We are currently running a number of pilots using the technology in a few clinics and homes of children with cerebral palsy,” Howard continued. “Our current pilots show that children with CP are able to successfully follow the therapy protocols and guidance provided by their robot playmates.”

The next goal, she said, is to implement a long-term pilot program of two months to evaluate the robots’ full potential. Once the effectiveness of the bot-aided therapy is validated, the technology will then be ready for commercialization.

While it’s not being viewed as a replacement for human physical therapists, as it serving as an additional tool for practitioners could turn out to be beneficial. After all, what kid didn’t dream of having his or her own robot pal?

Emerging Tech

Delivery robots are poised to invade our cities, but are we ready for them?

Across the United States, small startups and big businesses alike are clamoring to swarm city streets with fleets of autonomous delivery robots. The only problem? Our urban areas aren't always well-equipped to accommodate them
Deals

Amazon slashes prices on Ecovacs Deebot robot vacuums for one day only

Amazon cut prices of two Ecovacs Deebot robot vacuums for Deals of the Day. Robot vacuums have convinced millions of their value. I bought an Ecovacs Deebot as a family gift, and after a couple of weeks my wife said, "Best gift ever."
Movies & TV

Seeing double: These actors have twins you probably didn’t even know about

These famous actors have lesser-known twin siblings who have remained out of the spotlight, working either behind the cameras or outside of the entertainment business altogether.
Emerging Tech

Blue the robot could help fold clothes or unload your dishes for under $5,000

Ever dreamed of having your very own helper robot? Roboticists from UC Berkeley have created a new robot to help unpack your dishwasher or fold your clothes. All for under $5,000, too!
Emerging Tech

Public vote opens for new planet name, but Planet McPlanetface won’t fly

The largest unnamed world in our solar system needs an official title, and you can help choose it. The scientists who discovered the icy planetoid recently announced details of a public vote offering three choices.
Emerging Tech

Watch the fearsome DroneHunter X3 pluck rogue UAVs out of the sky

How do you stop enemy drones in their tracks? DroneHunter X3 is a new autonomous anti-drone technology which outruns and then captures rogue drones in midair. Check it out in action.
Emerging Tech

How MIT hacked horticulture to cultivate a hyper-flavorful basil plant

At MIT, Caleb Harper used his personal food computers to alter the climate in which he grew basil. Exposing it light for 24 hours a day changed the flavor profile of the plant, making it spicier and stronger.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX’s main Falcon Heavy booster is lost at sea after falling off drone ship

SpaceX has lost the center core of its Falcon Heavy rocket after a successful mission last week that ended with it landing on a drone ship. SpaceX said rough seas resulted in the rocket toppling over and falling into the ocean.
Emerging Tech

Sweden is building a road that recharges electric buses that drive over it

The Swedish transport administration is exploring special roads which will charge vehicles’ batteries as they drive over them. It will test the idea with a short sample stretch of road.
Emerging Tech

Scientists manage to 3D print an actual heart using human cells

Scientists at Tel Aviv University have achieved a world-first by 3D printing a small-scale heart, complete with blood vessels, ventricles, and chambers. Here's why that's so exciting.
Emerging Tech

Drown out noisy neighbors and rest easy with these white noise machines

Some people are more sensitive to sound during sleep than others. Luckily, there are a number of white noise machines on the market to mask the noise. Here are our five of our current favorites.
Emerging Tech

Feast your eyes on the wildest, most elaborate Rube Goldberg machines ever built

Want to see something totally mesmerizing? Check out several of the best Rube Goldberg machines from across the internet, including one that serves cake and others that do ... nothing particularly useful.
Emerging Tech

Watch a pack of SpotMini robot dogs perform a terrifying feat of strength

Boston Dynamics' SpotMini robotic dog is now going around in packs, and the results are somewhat concerning. Check out the video to see what kind of shenanigans 10 of them got up to recently ...
Emerging Tech

Notre Dame fire: How drones and a robot called Colossus helped limit the damage

The fire that devastated the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral on Monday shocked many around the world. In a bid to prevent even worse damage to the structure, Paris firefighters opted to deploy drones and a robot called Colossus.