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PSFK Picks: Top 10 Health Innovations Of The Week

We bring you the most stimulating and exciting stories from the world of wellness research.

Wesley Robison
Wesley Robison on April 28, 2012. @redixculous

PSFK has partnered with Boehringer Ingelheim to bring you a snapshot of Ten Innovative Ideas each week that are reshaping the health care industry. Continue reading below for the most exciting ideas from the past seven days.

Google’s Autonomous Vehicle ‘Drives’ Blind Passenger Around Town On Daily Errands
Technology giant Google gave YouTube viewers a glimpse of the future with a video that showed an almost totally blind person behind the wheel of one of its self-driving cars. While Google’s demonstration followed a pre-planned route, it pointed to the potential of autonomous vehicles to one day work without extensive preparation, giving independence back to individuals with disabilities that make driving difficult. The driverless automobiles are outfitted with radar and laser sensors to guide the vehicle along the road and help it avoid obstacles. In addition to the flexibility it could afford drivers of any capability level, the technology could help increase the capacity and efficiency of existing roadways by enabling cars to drive closer together without incident.

SlimKicker Platform Turns Weight-Loss Into A Game With Challenges And Rewards
Slimkicker is a new online platform and mobile app that helps people achieve their diet and wellness goals by turning what we eat into a game, complete with challenges and rewards. With Slimkicker, meal tracking and calorie counting becomes more motivating as players share their progress with their friends and earn badges and even win prizes for their healthy behavior. Slimkicker also submits challenges to the community like going soda-free or eating one salad a day, offering sustained support and incentives for users to make healthier meal choices.

Tamagotchi Style Mobile App By Discoverful Links Fitness Goals With Care Of Virtual Pets 
During the AT&T Mobile App Hackathon at this year’s SXSW event, the founders of mobile app Discoverful created a prototype for a fitness tracking game reminiscent of the Tamagotchi digital pet games of the past. Their winning entry, the virtual pet fitness app, encourages people to reach their fitness goals by taking their in-game pets for a walk. In the game concept, if the owner neglects their daily run or decides not to go to the gym, the virtual pet will become unhappy, get sick and eventually even die, offering an emotional incentive to stick to their workout schedule. The developers of the app are uncertain whether they will take the app into full production, and for the time being, it is not available in app stores.

Extensive UK Health Database Will Assist Researchers In Better Understanding Disease
Following years of preparation, the UK Biobank recently launched a database which contained the medical, lifestyle and genetic information from half a million middle-aged British people, and made it available to medical researchers worldwide. Volunteers contributed their information in the interest of accelerating disease research. To access the database, which was compiled by the country’s publicly funded healthcare system, researchers must make a formal proposal demonstrating their work is in the interest of public health and that findings will be published in peer-reviewed journals. Though China’s Kadoori Biobank is of a similar size, the UK Biobank catalogs greater detail. The existence of these complementary databases will be particularly useful in examining the extent to which diseases may have genetic or environmental causes.

SmartMonitor’s Intelligent Watch Calls For Help During Seizures 
California-based tech company SmartMonitor has created a wearable device called the SmartWatch that alerts caregivers when the wearer is having a seizure, enabling them to provide necessary assistance. Worn like a watch 24 hours a day, the device tracks the wearer’s arm activity, identifying when seizure-like, excessive motions are active beyond their typical movement range. While experiencing a seizure, wearers can send an alert to a pre-programmed contact of choice by pressing a button on the watch. If the button is not pressed within thirty seconds of detected conditions, the watch sends a Bluetooth signal to the wearer’s Android smartphone, which automatically alerts the selected caregiver. The device records the time, duration and geographic location of seizure activity and false alarms can be cancelled with the press of a button.

IntelliWheels’ Geared Wheelchair Automatically Shifts To Increase Mobility And Reduces Body Strain
Currently under development, IntelliWheels is a geared wheelchair that automatically adjusts gears by monitoring how fast the user is going and the force with which they are pushing.  The automatic gear switching system makes pushing easier relative to standard manual wheelchairs and is a lightweight, easily transportable alternative to bulky powered and push assist models. Under trial by 40 wheelchair athletes, as well as residents of an Illinois nursing home, IntelliWheels has the potential to increase mobility for wheelchair users and reduce shoulder and upper extremity pain.

Mobile App Gathers Data From Participants To Give Researchers Better Insight Into Addiction
In two separate studies, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Penn State utilized the mobile tracking capabilities of smartphones to provide new insight into the nature of addiction. Seeking to determine why some people have an easier time quitting smoking than others, the study created an app that asked participants to report on their emotional state five times throughout the day and rate their urge to smoke on a scale of 1 to 10. Offering an intelligent alternative to clinic-based and self-reporting methodologies, the app-based approach uniquely allowed researchers to collect data from participants as they went about their normal routines, perhaps creating a more reliable pool of data from which to draw.

Cellphone Illumination Technology Tapped To Enable More Precise Imaging Of The Human Brain
Researchers from the Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering and The Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering have developed a new cost-effective neural imaging system that allows researchers to make much more complex maps of the brain with just a single camera and imaging system. This advance has the potential to transform the ways that scientists are able to view the human brain by eliminating the need for several different imaging techniques to fully map brain functions, which makes research and treatment expensive and inefficient. The cutting-edge illumination technology has been developed from the same technology that lights up our cell phones and computers-low-cost, easily-tested, miniature microchip lasers mounted on an extremely fast, sensitive camera-which means that the brain can be mapped with greater sophistication and precision much more quickly.

Siemens New Hearing Aid Uses Algorithms To Intelligently Manage And Filter Sounds 
German communications corporation Siemens has released a new hearing aid that has built in algorithms for filtering out excess distracting noise. Placed discreetly in the ear canal, the hearing aid is equipped with a technology that manages the balance between speech amplification and background noise. The algorithms in the technology facilitate easy listening for inexperienced hearing-aid wearers without overwhelming their ears with new unfamiliar sounds. For example, speech remains clear and comprehensible, while the sound quality can be adjusted to the individual wants and needs of the wearer, creating a more customized experience.

Headband By Neurovigil Can Read A Wearer’s Thoughts And Help Them Communicate
The iBrain is a wearable device that is intended to change the way individuals with neuro-degenerative conditions communicate. Developed by a team at NeuroVigil, the device, when worn around the head, can analyze a user’s brain waves and provide a readout of the data. That same information can then be used to help monitor or even diagnose medical conditions. Early tests also show that the headband can discern thoughts, as testers asked a participant to imagine balling their hand into a fist and were able to see changes in the participant’s brain pattern. The anticipation is that iBrain will ultimately allow people with A.L.S and other similar conditions to communicate through connected peripherals by just thinking.

PSFK has partnered with Boehringer Ingelheim to bring you a steady stream of inspiring news and ideas in the health and wellness space. Once each week, we will be posting an article on PSFK.com. If you would like to gain access to the full stream of content, please check out Boehringer Ingelheim’s Facebook page, where they are publishing a regular stream of inspiring and informative content.

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