The Baby Robot prototype needs to be exposed since it constantly undergoes modifications. (Image Credit: Cañas et al.)
Researchers at Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya in Barcelona developed a robotic toy called Baby Robot that can improve a toddler’s motor skills. This system works by interacting with toddlers, encouraging them to grasp or run away from the robot.
The car-like toy robot features a small camera along with integrated sensors. A set of computer vision algorithms, which detect a toddler, calculates the robot’s relative position to them. It also plans movements, allowing a toddler to interact with the toy by moving closer, demanding attention, running from it, etc. This is potentially more beneficial compared to other toys because it allows a toddler to practice their motor skills. At the same time, it prevents collisions with other objects. Baby Robot can also connect to a PC or tablet to delegate computations and record the session.
The researchers tested their robot in a kindergarten class to see how toddlers interact with it compared to a conventional toy car. They discovered that the toddlers preferred to play with Baby Robot longer than any crawling toy. Additionally, the robot improved their motor skills over time, leading them to move 3.1 times longer while traveling 4.4 meters further than those in control conditions. Ultimately, this opens up research opportunities toward how crawling toys can process the baby’s feedback while encouraging them to crawl longer and more efficiently.
The top image represents a toddler playing with crawling toys, while the bottom portion shows a toddler playing with Baby Robot. (Image Credit: Cañas et al.)
Now that the toy robot provides motor skill improvements for toddlers, the team wants to approach toy manufacturers to make the system widely available for the public. However, the team hasn’t approached any investors yet since the prototype consists of very cheap components. The team is also aware that the toy should be safe for children since it’s designed for toddlers. Baby Robot needs to undergo a series of tests before commercialization, which the team cannot fund at the moment. An expert manufacturer needs to develop a resistant case, allowing infants to play with the toy.
The researchers want to find investors to support their efforts toward building computer vision-powered toys. These include robots for older infants and primary school students. Additionally, they plan on performing pedagogic studies to improve Baby Robot’s behavior. So far, the toy’s design is capable of producing sounds, colors, lights, and facial expressions on a small screen. However, these elements have not been integrated into the toy yet because the team wanted to observe the toddler’s reactivity with the prototype during playtime.
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