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Tuesday, 15 October, 2002, 10:12 GMT 11:12 UK
Translating a baby's cries
Icons light up to show why the baby is crying
Face icons translate a baby's cries
The mystery of why a baby cries may be solved by a gadget which can tell harassed parents if their child is hungry, sleepy or tired.

The device, which is the size of a calculator, translates the baby's cries, so parents know what's wrong.

A microchip monitors volume, pattern and interval to work out if the baby is stressed, tired, hungry, sleepy or uncomfortable.

Within seconds, a corresponding face lights up to tell parents what is wrong.


What can a machine offer that a parent can't?

Dr Harvey Marcovitch, paediatrician
The battery-powered "Why Cry" device was created by Spanish electronic engineer Pedro Monagas.

He was trying to work out why his own son Alex was crying.

Help for parents

Mr Monagas spent three years visiting nurseries analysing the crying patterns of babies of around 100 babies.

A crying baby and a sleep face
How the machine might depict a baby was sleepy
He told a national newspaper: "My own son Alex was always crying and after night after night of not very much sleep I decided I had to find a way of finding out what he was trying to say to me - if only for my own sanity.

He said his device, which it is claimed has a 98% accuracy rate, could be a real boon to parents.

"It will really help to understand why infants are crying and to react accordingly."

Experience

But paediatrician Dr Harvey Marcovitch, editor of the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, told BBC News Online the machine would do nothing that experienced mothers could not do already.

"Any mother, certainly an experienced mother, will tell you they are capable of telling the difference between a hunger cry, a cry of pain, or an overtired cry with reasonable accuracy.

"What can a machine offer that a parent can't?"

He said that the machine would also be unable to distinguish colic, where a baby cries and cries for no discernible reason, which does leave parents baffled.

Pedro Monagas has said his device will be available in Spanish pharmacies by the end of the month, priced at 95 euros (60).

See also:

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