Toddlers are inherently curious beings. They like to put their hands (and mouths) on everything around them; it’s how they learn more about the world. Some kiddos with physical disabilities, however, can’t explore in the same way as their peers, which can create cognitive gaps in development.
In a project at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering, two students created a solution: the Tot Bot. Although currently only a prototype, the Tot Bot is an app available for any mobile device that pairs with a child’s wheelchair and allows them to navigate the world via touchscreen. As small children can have difficulty operating the joysticks that more traditionally control electric wheelchairs, the touchscreen gives them a familiar interface. The device’s camera and screen show them what’s around, the child points to the object, and the Tot Bot moves their chair closer to it, then turns to the side so the child can touch and grab it. The system also lets parents place RFID tags on objects they consider safe for their kids to play with.