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OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Mobility is a gateway to learning. But, children with cerebral palsy and other disabilities have been hindered – until now.

“It’s only when they can explore and access the environment enables to interact with objects in their environment very useful for learning,” Dr. Thubi Kolobe said.

OU researchers, scientists and computer engineers have created robotic assistance for infants.

“It’s almost like an Ironman suit except for infants,” OU computer engineer David Miller said. “They get to do all kinds of things they couldn’t before.”

The Self-Initiated Prone Powered Crawler, commonly known as ‘sip-see,’ marries technology with a baby’s innate desire to explore.

“You can see the little light bulb going on in their head,” Miller said. “They react and are encouraged, and the progress they make a lot of time commitment but worth.”

Sensors listen for subtle cues from babies with cerebral palsy and other disabilities, allowing them movement that would otherwise be impossible.

“When the babies learn how to move around, they get these big smiles,” Miller said. “We have babies who pretend they are flying.”

Several children, like eight-month-old Ira, are actively involved in the study.

“He loves it,” his mom said. “He has so much fun on it.”

There is still work to be done, but the sip-see crawler is a major step in the right direction for infants, once sidelined with disabilities like cerebral palsy.

The Self-Initiated Prone Powered Crawler will be showcased at the Smithsonian Innovation Fair in Washington D.C. over the weekend.