4Moms' Robotic Car Seat Aims To Improve Safety, Installation

Mar 3, 2016

Pittsburgh-based 4Moms, which works to create innovative parent-friendly products for children, unveiled a new product to streamline the clunky process of installing a car seat.

For sale later this year, the self-installing car seat joins a battery of other user friendly products that harness technology to sterilize, self-fold and mimic a parent's touch.   

Mara McFaddon, director of product management, said it’ll be the safest one yet on the market.

“It’s not that seats aren’t safe enough when installed correctly,” she said. “It’s that they’re not installed correctly in the first place. Four out of five car seats are installed incorrectly the data shows, which is terrifying.”

Some research shows that seven out of 10 children are improperly restrained, according to SeatCheck.org, an organization that advocates for child safety. Other researchers claim the statistics are even more alarming.

“Across the country, we find a greater than 95 percent misuse of car seats,” said Alisa Baer, a pediatrician and nationally certified child passenger safety instructor. 

Baer’s website, The Car Seat Lady, tracks data from several annual studies on proper car seat selection and installation. 

McFadden said robotic products can also come with their own safety risks, something 4Moms takes seriously.

“For example, in the Origami (the company’s self-folding stroller), there’s actually a sensor in the seat. So whenever there’s a child in the seat, even if you intentionally try to fold it, you can’t do it,” McFadden said.

With safety in mind, 4Moms' robotic car seat also aims to make actually installing it much easier than with traditional models. 

“So all you need to do is place it into the car, snap on the latch connectors, push a button and it’s good to go from there," McFadden said. 

Another design coming out later this year is a little less high-tech, but still practical, McFadden said. It’s a magnetic high chair designed for easier tray removal, while making it more difficult for a toddler to knock his or her bowl of cereal or grapes onto the floor. 

4Moms' high chair with magnetic trays, one of the company's less high-tech, but innovative products.
Credit Melinda Roeder / 90.5 WESA

“It has a magnetic tray. I don’t know if you’ve ever interacted with a high chair, but it’s really tricky to get the trays on and off,” McFadden said. “And we’ve magnetized it to make it so much simpler and we have a line of dish ware that is also magnetic to the tray.”

Public Relations Coordinator Amie Ley said most of the 4Moms employees are parents, which is the source of inspiration for many of their products. But they said the company also takes customer input into account when designing new products.

“We have a ton of parents involved, and people love to interact with us on social media,” Ley said. “So, we do hear a lot of input. But it’s interesting, because we are doing things that are so innovative and so thought-forward, people have a hard time asking for things that they never imagined before.”

Officials with 4Moms next plan to take the company’s high-tech items overseas to China, expanding into a new market that could mean new innovations with global appeal.

In this week's Tech Report calendar: 

  • A Norwegian company wants to compete with Google. Opera software is creating a new internet browser officials claim can tell whether a user is reading news, checking email, social networking or some other task and adapts. So, for example, if that person is shopping, they could see recommendations on the side. Opera’s CEO announced those plans at the Mobile World Congress show in Spain.
  • British company EDF Energy is taking some heat after awarding a 13-year-old boy the top prize at a tech and engineering competition for girls. The contest is part of the “Pretty Curious Programme,” a campaign to encourage more teenage girls to study science. Organizers in the U.K. say they ultimately decided to open the contest up to all students ages 11 to 16, but some critics say that undermines the purpose.