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IES Contract

Title: Advancing Early Intervention Orientation & Mobility App with Pediatric Belt Cane
Center: NCSER Year: 2022
Principal Investigator: Datta, Abhishek Awardee: Soterix Medical
Program: Small Business Innovation Research in Special Education      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years (05/15/2022 – 05/14/2024) Award Amount: $1,000,000
Type: Phase II Development Award Number: 91990022C0043

Company Website:

Video Demonstration of the Phase I Prototype:

Purpose: This project team will develop a product to help children who are blind or visual impaired to learn to walk. Currently there are few interventions for caregivers and practitioners to support children who are blind or visually impaired students in learning to walk safely and independently.

Project Activities: In the prior 2021 Phase I project, the team developed a new prototype of a smart belt and cane with an accompanying mobile app. The belt and cane collect motion data as children practice walking and the app presents the data to caregivers and practitioners with insights to improve walking. At the end of Phase I, researchers completed a pilot study with 25 children who are blind or visually impaired, and their caregivers and practitioners, that demonstrated that the prototype functioned as planned, caregivers and practitioners found the information generated by the mobile app useful, and children progressed in their ability to walk.

In the Phase II project, the team will fully develop the product, including a machine learning algorithm to generate real-time prompts that will guide children as they walk. The research team will also improve the accuracy of the data that is provided to caregivers and practitioners through the mobile app, optimize the smart belt for commercial use, complete the instructional components, and finalize professional development and training materials. The team will iteratively refine the product with feedback from practitioners, parents, and children at major production milestones until the product is fully functional. After development concludes, researchers will carry out a pilot study to assess the feasibility and usability, fidelity of implementation, and promise of the product to support children in learning to walk. The team will collect data from 100 children who are blind or visually impaired, as well as one caregiver and one practitioner for each child, over a 4-week period. Researchers will gather cost information using the ingredients method to capture all relevant expenditures, including the costs for personnel, facilities, equipment, materials, and training.

Product: The product is a smart walking cane and belt for children who are blind or visually impaired with an accompanying mobile app. The smart belt's sensor collects data as children practice walking and transmit these data to the app. A machine learning algorithm provides just-in-time feedback to children with audio prompts for supporting walking through the app. The app will also present data to early intervention practitioners and caregivers to track child progress and recommend lesson plans. The project will result in training curricular materials for practitioners and parents to support children and use data to inform instruction.

Related IES Projects: Early Intervention Orientation and Mobility App with Pediatric Can and Smart Belt for Toddlers (91990021C0032)