Challenges In The Field Of Assistive Technologies
Previous work with assistive mobility devices include RJCooper’s The CooperCar, a modified version of a children’s toy car BOSS® by Hedstrom sold at $2000. The CooperCar utilizes four switches to specify the car’s unidirectional movement for beginners, or a joystick to support omnidirectional control for more advanced users. However, the directional switches did not steer the car as intended, making the device spin on its axis. Although the CooperCar is bulky, it only supports 50 lbs and functions on smooth surfaces. The CooperCar was discontinued after a Hedstrom factory burned down in 1999.
Another similar project was undertaken by the UK based Medical Engineering Resource Unit (MERU). MERU’s $5,000 Bugzi® is a powered wheeled indoor chair for children aged one to five with motor impairments. Bugzi® is a switch and joystick based design like the CooperCar but is an improvement from the CooperCar, since its controller is programmable, and its seating and functionality can be adjusted based on the individual child’s needs. However, the highly-customized Bugzi® design is not available to the public for replication. Instead the UK MERU loans out Bugzi® on a circulation basis among centers for disability service. More expensive powered wheeled devices, such as Otto Bock’s Skippi®, cost as much as $10,000.
Go Baby Go, a non-profit founded by a professor from University of Delaware, creates DIY assistive mobile toys for less than $1,000, remodifying available children’s toys like the Wild Thing®. Still, these assistive toys lack a wide range of controls that other more expensive devices offer and are not physically configurable to the different needs of children with disabilities. There is also no documentation of the construction process for replicability. Nevertheless, the Go Baby Go projects paved a direction to create cost-effective designs of assistive devices.