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Weebots: Driveable Robots For Babies Who Need Them 72

toygeek writes "Babies, as you may have noticed if you own one, like to get into all sorts of mischief, and studies show that exploring and interacting with the world is important for cognitive development. Babies who can't move around as well may not develop at the same rate as babies who can, which is why researchers from Ithaca College in New York are working on a way to fuse babies with robots to give mobility to all babies, even those with conditions that may delay independent mobility, like Down syndrome, spina bifida, or cerebral palsy."
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Weebots: Driveable Robots For Babies Who Need Them

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  • LOL ... (Score:5, Funny)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @12:33PM (#41179603) Homepage

    Well, I for one welcome our new cyborg-baby overlords.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    fuse babies with robots ? er, ahem ?

    • by Bovius ( 1243040 )

      I stopped reading as soon as I saw the phrase "a way to fuse babies with robots". Nothing the rest of the summary or the article could say could possibly be more rad.

  • by Alter_3d ( 948458 ) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @12:36PM (#41179633)
    Looking forward to version 2.0. Now with wings!

    Cherubs! []
  • by milbournosphere ( 1273186 ) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @12:38PM (#41179643)
    Here's hoping that if the babies find themselves wobbling, they won't fall down.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Cyborg baby [].

  • Baby destroyer. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Xoltri ( 1052470 ) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @12:48PM (#41179741)
    I have always said how terrifying it would be if a giant baby, maybe 20 stories tall, were let loose in a city. It would cause untold amounts of destruction all while being oblivious to its own malice (babies are not evil). Now we are one step closer, although it will be in some kind of a mech suit and not just physically large.
    • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Thursday August 30, 2012 @12:55PM (#41179801) Homepage Journal

      Spoken like someone who doesn't have kids.
      Take the word baby out of the equation.

      Some asshole woke me 6 times last night screaming there head off.
      My roommate is always shitting his pants and laughing at me.
      Some guy just peed into my computer*.
      Evil, evil, evil
      Next time a parent talks about all the crap they do for their baby, try to think of it as someone else besides a baby.

      *When my son was just learning how to walk, he stood up, dropped his diaper and just peed through the vent on the side of the computer, barely missing the power supply.

      • by Xoltri ( 1052470 )
        No, I have 2 kids. Don't get me wrong, they can be destructive, selfish, annoying, all of those things, But they don't do them out of any inherent evil, that is for sure.
    • by jovius ( 974690 )

      H.G. Wells wrote excellently about the subject: [] (although giant sizes babies and future adults are only actors in the coming new giant sized world in the book).

  • by jeffmeden ( 135043 ) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @12:58PM (#41179841) Homepage Journal

    If the baby is really going to learn, they need something to run that robot in to. The key feature of the robot, if it an extension of the physical self, is to provide proper (not too harsh, not too soft) feedback when the baby runs into something that wants to block its attempts at doing something... like overprotective parents.

    Kidding aside, the earliest learning that takes place is the simplest form of "this works, that doesn't" which is why kids spend so much time hitting things against other things just to see what happens. Recreating that experience in a mobility-limited child is not easy, but also very important.

    • by Xoltri ( 1052470 )
      My youngest, 10 months old, when he first started crawling he would encounter an obstacle like a door or a chair leg and repeatedly bump into it harder and harder and then start to cry because it hurt. It's like he didn't understand he couldn't go through objects. Seems to be figuring it out now though...
      • To be fair, some things do "magically" get out of their way like curtains, pets, most other humans, soft furniture like pillows, etc. When you are 10 months old, these are mostly indistinguishable so it's a real chore to remember what moves and what doesn't. Isn't watching babies learn just the coolest thing?

        • by Xoltri ( 1052470 )
          For sure, I could do without the newborn stage but once they start moving around they are fun to watch and interact with.
        • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

          by Havenwar ( 867124 )

          Well, I can't say I find it very cool. But then I suppose it could be, if you put curtains, pets, other humans, soft furniture like pillows in a room... and then hid heavy objects in/behind a few of these. Yeah, that would amuse me.

          Especially with one of these robot babies, given the increased mobility of some sort of motorized transport, and the decreased mental function of some sort of retardation. Watching one of those little tykes on wheels bang repeatedly head first into a metal anvil hidden inside a p

      • Have you tested his eyesight?
  • Am I the only one who read the title and thought "Okay, there's no need to get personal..."

    • by Len ( 89493 )

      My thought was "EVERY baby needs a driveable robot!"

    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      No, but what got me was the first sentence, though. "Babies, as you may have noticed if you own one".

      OWN ONE? I hate to break it to Toy Geek and timothy, but it's illegal to own humans these days.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Before the rest of us are using these a la Wall-E...

  • Wee bots to help babies, nice. Can never start potty training too early.

    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      Can never start potty training too early.

      Good luck potty training a baby who can't walk. Once they're old enough to walk, THEN they're old enough to patty train. In my kids' cases, it was about 6 months of age.

  • Shell People? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Hallow ( 2706 ) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @01:22PM (#41180125) Homepage

    One step closer to sentient spacecraft? []

  • You don't own a baby, they own you.
  • by dbc ( 135354 ) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @01:36PM (#41180281)

    I love robots. I work in robotics. This is not an anti-robot rant. This is a rant about using technolgy inappropriately.

    I know the develpers mean well, but it is clear the developers know nothing about neurology and child development. Kids with mobility problems don't need a machine that removes the need for them to develop. Kids with mobility development issues need 10X to 100X or maybe 1000X the mobility inputs. It needs to be broken down into smaller constituent components and trained intensively. Kids that can't creep, need to crawl. Kids that can't crawl, need to be patterned. Kids with mobility issues need 10X-1000X *MORE* movement inputs, not less movement input. If they can't do it themselves, then pattern them. A kid that can't creep by the normal age needs to spend nearly every waking hour crawling, wriggling, being patterned. When they can creep, they need to creep miles every day until the mid-brain comes together in good, cross-body coordinated creeping. Knee-walking needs to be eliminated so that they are forced to creep. That is the only way to fix the mid-brain injuries and other neurological injuries that these kids have. The brain grows by use. The brain shrinks by dis-use. Got that?

    A robot that removes the need for them to move their legs is almost criminally stupid. It would be much better to build a robot that helps pattern the kids by putting the muscles through the correct natural movements.

    This project is the poster child for why engineers need to gets their noses out of technology once in a while and understand some other part of the world's knowledge base. Anyone who knows anything about neurological development can see this is a well-meaning but naive disaster that is equivalent to injecting poison into these kids' nervous systems.

    • Did you read the article? If you did you would have seen the part that says "It's turning out to be difficult for some babies to sit up enough to control the WeebBot by leaning, but in at least one case, a fifteen month old boy with cerebral palsy was able to learn to control a WeeBot, after which he started to develop crawling skills on his own."

    • by d3ac0n ( 715594 )

      As a parent of a child with L4 Spina Bifida I have to agree with you.

      I would MUCH rather see these guys working on neuro-spinal implants that would allow my baby girl's frayed spinal cord to be properly connected to all it's end points. Or on bio-engineering cellular lattices that would do the same thing. They should be focused on FIXING the problems, not going around them with silly solutions that cause more problems in the long run.

      I want my baby to walk on her own two feet. Not be shuttled around on s

    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      I'd mod you up if I had points. My oldest daughter never did learn to crawl; she discovered at about two months that she could cross a room by rolling, so she rolled everywhen until she she started learning to stand, which was about the normal time. If we'd stuck her in one of these robots she may well have never learned to walk.

  • Who needs to train them to ever get up and walk? Just let them sit in larger and larger, more responsive chairs. They'll fly our jets with better reaction time than our top guns. Oh, but make sure there aren't any TABLES IN THE ROOM [Video @2:20]
  • Is no one else aware of how quickly baby outgrow clothing?

    Or of how exactly fit these kinds of robot aids need to be?

    I know lots of cases where parents end up never using clothing bought for their kid because the kid outgrew them.

    I'm betting that these medical aids are a tad more expensive than children's clothing.

    Are we supposed to rent them?

    • Did you read the article? If you did you'd see that it was a standard platform that could accept any baby seat placed on top of it.

    • It looks like the chair is easily replaceable. Snap off the old, put on a bigger one until they reach the point that the entire device is the chair.

  • by dr_leviathan ( 653441 ) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @01:48PM (#41180481)

    This cyborg baby article reminds me of another that I saw recently: a child with a muscle condition can move her arms with the help of some exoskeleton support whose parts were printed out with a 3D printer: []

  • Capcom thought about this a while ago []
  • Are there still babies being born with Down syndrome and Spina Bifida ? I though tests of those (and others) were performed on all pregnant women, resulting in abortion in those cases.
    • That only works with legitimate disabilities.

    • Re:Why ? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by rsborg ( 111459 ) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @06:09PM (#41184221) Homepage

      Are there still babies being born with Down syndrome and Spina Bifida ? I though tests of those (and others) were performed on all pregnant women, resulting in abortion in those cases.

      There are numerous couples around the world who have tried and tried to have a baby and never succeeded. For them, when finding out that their 20-week-old fetus may have a birth defect wouldn't change their mind about keeping the baby. Also some religious folks don't like these checks, so they see it as fate that they get a baby with disabilities (and they care for and love them the same as a normal baby).

      I'm guess you've never been pregnant - despite what the right-wing says, getting an abortion even if your baby has defects, is very very traumatic and really not desired for many pregenant women. The bond that develops is a tough one to break - even if you know life will be difficult for the baby.

      Also, when my daughter was born, she had to be checked to see if she had spina bifuda - she didn't but we were worried for some time... medical science is not quite there yet on detection and prevention.

  • And thus, this well intentioned invention will lead to the future envisioned in Disney's "Wall-E".

    Frankly, I've never seen a more depressing movie in my life. I hope they save these Weebots for only the kids that really need them. Anything else is a lazy, slippery slope.


  • What about the rest of us?!
  • As Canada is the only nation on the planet insane enough to ban walkers (with possession carrying a harsher penalty than negligent driving), these would likely fall under the ban of infant mobility devices.

  • > a way to fuse babies with robots

    Do not, I repeat, DO NOT put frickin' lasers on their heads!! :-o

"This is lemma 1.1. We start a new chapter so the numbers all go back to one." -- Prof. Seager, C&O 351