Idea #18: Adaptive Baby Swing

In the early days of a baby’s life, both baby and parents need to get their rest any way they can get it. A baby swing is often used as a baby sleep aid and when it works, it’s pure magic.

There are a couple of issues with the basic designs today:

  1. They are often battery powered. This is pretty senseless.  Just offer an A/C adapter already!
  2. Probably because of the battery, they are “programmed” to have their white noise/music run for 30 minutes and then stop.  This can be a problem when the baby isn’t quite asleep yet or they wake up at the slightest change in environment.  Some babies are just like that.
  3. They are quite manual, mechanically.  You set a speed and that speed does not change until you come and turn the knob to some other setting.

So a first step forward is to just alleviate these problems by offering a wall outlet plug, music and white noise settings which do not cease until you tell them to, and offer sequences (perhaps fast at first to put them to sleep, and then slower to keep them relaxed and out).  These would be great improvements.

However, being an engineer, I have something a bit more advanced in mind.  And in a programming sense, it’s really not that advanced, but it’s way beyond the current state of the art in baby products.  Ideally, we would design a smart baby swing.

The Components

Aside from the frame and seat, the swing would also have a microphone, a speaker, a computer chip, a Flash drive or CF card, and a motor for doing the swinging.

The Software

The software would be a genetic algorithm (or any kind of optimization approach, really) with a goal of silence. The software would listen with the microphone for distressed crying (and it would ideally be able to distinguish real crying from talking and cooing) and it would develop an initial pattern of sound and swing speeds.  It could measure and store persistently a Time to Silence, date & time, coupled with the sound/swing pattern used to achieve it.  The optimization the swing would be trying to achieve would be the lowest possible time to silence measurement.

The ultimate goal for this product would be for a parent to set their child in the swing, turn it on, and walk away…letting the swing figure out which stimulus the baby best responds to, to achieve rest.  Obviously, you still need to care for your baby and listen to him/her, but this device would hopefully free you up by trying variations on a theme to smartly relax the baby. If the baby wakes up mid-nap, the swing would automatically react to the sounds by repeating the same process that it initially used and adjust its behavior accordingly based on what is working.

Update: Had another thought while working with my baby in the swing this morning.  Offer a hackable swing with an open interface, such that programmers could write their own logic for the motors and sound playback!

Known Implementations: None