Teaching children to walk using video games

team_equiliberator

Medical conditions that prevent individuals from being able to walk are difficult to handle, even more so if the patient happens to be a child. Shriner’s hospitals treat a good number of children suffering from cerebral palsy, spina bifida, or amputations. They are always looking for creative treatment methods, so their Motion Analysis Laboratory looked to some Rice University undergrads for help. They asked the group of engineers to design a system that would make physical therapy a bit more fun, while helping encourage the children along.

The team recently unveiled their project, called the Equiliberator. The game system incorporates a series of five Wii balance boards situated between a pair of pressure-sensitive handrails. The platform communicates with a computer via Bluetooth, registering the patient’s movements as he or she moves along the path. The software portion of the system consists of a monster-slaying game which requires the child to step on a particular section of the pathway to dispose of the oncoming enemies.

The game is designed to get more difficult as the child’s balance and coordination improve, encouraging them with an ever growing bank of points as they progress. The final goal of the project is to enable the pressure sensitive handrails to determine how much the child is relying on them for balance, offering in-game incentives to walk with as little support as possible.

We love seeing hacks like this which not only entertain, but truly help people in the process. Kudos to the team at Rice University – they have done a fantastic job here.

Continue reading to see a quick video describing the Equiliberator in the designers’ own words.

[via MedGadget]

[Read more...]

Pencil balancer a bit noisy for desk use

Who wouldn’t want to install this little bot as your newest pencil holder? Place a pencil tip-down and it will keep it from falling using two motors. There is a Dynamic Vision Sensor for each axis that provides feedback, but it’s not the same as using a camera. These sensors pick up changes in pixel contrast, outputting a positive or negative number based on the direction the pencil is beginning to fall. An NXP2103 running at 64 MHz reads in the values and drives the pair of servo motors accordingly.

If you’re interested in the nitty-gritty the full paper is available from the page linked above. It goes into great detail about the algorithm used, and includes plots and histograms showing the data capture during a balancing session. Or you can skip the eggheaded exercises and watch the video after the break.

[Read more...]

BAMF2010: QB goes to meetings, shoots lasers from eyes

No, it’s not an extra from Wall-E. “QB” is the latest telepresence robot from Silicon Valley firm Anybots. QB combines two-way videoconferencing with a Segway-style self-balancing platform. The idea is to provide mobility and more natural interaction than desktop-tethered conferencing can provide.

The 35 pound robot’s battery runs for six to eight hours, and the telescoping head allows the eye level to be adjusted to match the user’s natural viewpoint. What looks like stereo vision is actually a single camera on the left eye and a steerable laser pointer on the right.

Shipping this October for $15,000, QB will appeal mostly to businesses with specific telepresence needs. This is half the price of their prior QA model — and in time the technology may reach the mass-market level. Until then, we’ll just have to amuse ourselves by remotely attending meetings with our ankle-nipping Rovio robots.

Balancing cube looks more like a star

This art-meets-robot has the grueling task of standing on one foot all day long while other robots get to bend to their heart’s content. It balances on that single point by adjusting its center of gravity with six pendulum-like appendages. To make the system more like the Borg, each of those six modules shares sensor data with the rest and work together to keep the unit upright. Give in to loving the design because resistance is futile.

[Via BotJunkie]

Ball inverted pendulum

We’ve seen several different balancing bot styles over the past few years, but this one is new to us. The BallP, short for Ball inverted Pendulum, balances on top of a ball. We’re not sure what the advantages are to this layout though. Anyone care to enlighten us? Even though we hadn’t seen this style, it is apparently not new. The Ballbot has been around for a while and might seem even more impressive visually.

Wii remote controlled balancing wheel chair

The Personal Mobility Robot (PMR) has a chair for a passenger and balances on two wheels like a Segway. Now the clever folks at the University of Tokyo have added Wii remote control to the platform in a full-sized version of the Segwii. We understand that adding Wiimote control to anything isn’t exactly groundbreaking at this point. That being said, if using stock hardware can increase the quality of the user interface on something like a wheelchair, while decreasing the production cost at the same time, we’re all for it.

[Thanks Erico]

Balancing skateboard/segway

[XenonJon] got a lot of attention for a skateboard/segway style balancing platform he took to the Makerfaire in Newcastle. He decided to try to build it the cheapest and easiest possible way in an attempt to help others build their own. The build is documented very well, however you have to email him to request the code for the Arduino. Maybe after enough requests, he’ll just pop it online. We thought this looked familiar, so we searched the archive and found this very similar setup from back in 2005. Unfortunately, that project page appears to be gone now.

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