Colourful, cute, fun and equipped with sophisticated sensors. We are talking about smart toys for the early diagnosis and monitoring of neurodevelopmental disorders that will enable the acquisition of digital biomarkers during childhood.
This is the pivot of TECH-TOYS, the multidisciplinary project coordinated by Giovanni Cioni, Scientific Director of the IRCCS Fondazione Stella Maris in Calambrone (Pisa), together with a multidisciplinary team including the BioRobotics Institute of the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, with the research group coordinated by Matteo Cianchetti, and the Institute of Management with the group coordinated by Giuseppe Turchetti.
The results of TECH-TOYS are destined to open new frontiers for the early, timely, customised, home-based quantitative detection of neurodevelopmental disorders in the first months of life.
'Neurodevelopmental disorders are a group of very frequent sensory-motor, cognitive, communication, learning and behavioural disorders (1 in 10 children are affected),' explains Prof. Giovanni Cioni, 'the causes of which are multifactorial and affect the whole life. Despite progress in our understanding of the causes, diagnosis and the start of intervention are often late and occur many months after the onset of the first clinical signs and are not based on quantitative data'.
The aim of the TECH-TOYS project is precisely to develop a new interactive home and technology-based play environment, using the experience gained in the 'CareToy' project ('Toys for Care'), in which the Stella Maris Foundation and the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna invented and experimented a smart gymnasium with lots of sensorised toys similar to those children play with when they are in a cot or playpen. Toys that contain refined and innovative technology, more than 2000 sensors that monitor parameters such as posture and manipulation. The data on motor skills from this experience, combined with the data on child-caregiver social interaction collected by the French team, will enable the development of a play setting capable of providing easy-to-handle quantitative digital biomarkers of the child's neurodevelopment and of the interaction between the child and its mother and father (caregiver).