Tuesday, 19 June, 2018

This Microsoft wearable is helping Parkinson's patients write again

This Microsoft wearable is helping Parkinson's patients write again This Microsoft wearable is helping Parkinson's patients write again
Kayla Schwartz | 12 May, 2017, 02:44

The Emma Watch is bulky, but who cares? What can be called one of the most inspiring products shown off at the ongoing Microsoft Build 2017 conference is the Emma Watch. The 33-year-old graphic designer was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease back in 2013. With the innovations in technology and research, they have tried to come up with this new wearable which is said to counter the Parkinson induced tremors.

While the watch titled Emma is by no means a cure for the disease, it does manage the symptoms so that a patient with Parkinson's can write legibly with its help. Lawton credits the Emma Watch's stabilization for restoring her ability to write and draw again - skills she needs as a graphic designer.

"I went in not really knowing a lot about Parkinson's, and sort of learned on the fly, read a lot of academic papers into this disease, and then, working with some collaborators in the lab, we developed a lot of prototypes", Zhang explained.

"It's still a surprise to me when my handwriting comes out the other side of it".

Zhang created a prototype smartwatch, itself known as "Emma".

Emma Watch Microsoft
Microsoft Haiyan Zhang and Emma Lawton show off the Emma Watch during Microsoft's Build event in Seattle Washington

For Lawton, a rhythmic vibration is effective, and it's controlled by a Windows 10 app.

With Parkinson's, extra signals are sent from the brain to muscles, which is what results in tremors and shakes, nearly operating in a loop. It does so by sending vibrations that cause Lawton's brain to focus on her right wrist, reducing the extra signals that cause muscle tremors. Since more than 10 million people are suffering from this problem globally, this device will surely help them in facing this tremor. The writing, it's not going to be ideal.

Fortunately, Microsoft had a detailed blog post queued up for the curious.

Zhang said she and Microsoft are now using the device, which they have appropriately dubbed "Emma" to conduct research into whether it can help other Parkinson's patients.

Microsoft is now exploring ways to "streamline and optimize the Emma Watch - and scale the technology", working in collaboration with a neuroscience team based in London, with the first wider-scale trials already being planned.

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