Researchers at the University of Helsinki in Finland created a smart jumpsuit that can track toddler movements. The idea is to closely monitor motor development and identify any issues early, allowing for earlier interventions. Issues with motor development can be related to wider neurodevelopmental problems, and so tracking a young child’s activity can provide a window into their overall development. Previously, this required someone to sit and watch the child, or footage of them, making it difficult to track kids for long periods of time. The suit required substantial breakthroughs in machine learning to train computer algorithms to recognize specific movements that point to possible underlying medical conditions.
Motor development is obviously important for growing children, and it plays a role in their overall development. Moving about and interacting with the world is important in learning and experiencing. Children with motor development issues may need special support so that their overall development isn’t affected too. Identifying developmental issues early is beneficial in implementing early interventions that guide a child’s overall neurodevelopmental progress.
At present, tracking motor development in children involves a lot of visual observation. This is time consuming and laborious, and is not particularly objective or quantitative. To address this, these researchers have created the MAIJU (Motor Assessment of Infants with a Jumpsuit) smart jumpsuit for toddlers and young children.
The suit contains a series of motion sensors. The researchers trained a machine learning algorithm to identify specific movements children made while wearing the suit, which required some innovation. “The development of the MAIJU wearable required a technical breakthrough in the development of machine learning algorithms for this purpose. This was achieved by combining a new kind of motility description with state-of-the-art deep learning solutions,” said Manu Airaksinen, a researcher involved in the study.
The advantages of the suit include its ability to monitor children objectively over long periods of time and in their natural surroundings, such as at home. “Our research shows that it is very possible to assess the motor development of an infant outside of a hospital or special laboratory setting,” said Sampsa Vanhatalo, another researcher involved in the study. “A particular advantage of the MAIJU methodology is the fact that it allows us to carry out developmental assessments in the natural environment of the child, such as a home or daycare.”
See a University of Helsinki video about the suit:
Study in Communications Medicine: Intelligent wearable allows out-of-the-lab tracking of developing motor abilities in infants