This Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) proposal seeks to develop an innovative, inexpensive, and reliable system, called the Tummy-Time Motivator (TTM), to motivate children to improve postural control. Postural control is the foundation for the development of skilled actions such as locomotion and balance, and it enables children to interact more effectively with their environment and thereby learn. Among four million annual newborns in America, there are more than half a million babies born preterm or diagnosed with a developmental disability, such as cerebral palsy, Down's syndrome, and visual impairment. For such babies, early intervention measures are crucial in alleviating the immediate problems and also long-term complications. Currently, children who have been diagnosed with poor postural control typically work with a physical therapist, who encourages the child to play in the prone position and teaches the parents how to facilitate this activity at home. However, because these children are not comfortable in the prone position, there is often insufficient follow-up at home. We propose to develop an automatic TTM system that encourages children to spend more time in the prone position by providing motivational feedback when they push up to the desired level. TTM will have a significant impact on the child, by making tummy time motivating and engaging, thereby promoting increased time in tummy time and the development of postural control. It will also have an impact on family life, by promoting independent playtime. We have high confidence in the commercial potential of this product. Besides the commercial benefits, this research project will also benefit education and technology development. STI has established a very good collaborative relationship with University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and we will support more educational activities in this Phase I project. In addition, the development of TTM has the potential to break new ground in scientific fields. On the technical side, we propose to develop new tracking algorithms to monitor the baby's position in real time. In the area of human behavior, we propose to use biofeedback to promote increased time in the prone position for babies with disabilities and developmental delays. As a result, our proposed work can impact future research and development in these areas.
Tummy-Time Motivator (TTM) will help children who were born preterm to develop postural control. TTM will lead to a reduced need for clinical intervention that translates to health care service cost savings. As a developmental aid, the TTM may also be useful for any of the 3 million children who are born each year in the United States.