PSFK Picks: Top 10 Health Innovations Of The Week

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
  • 5 may 2012

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.

Wearable Device Monitor Air Pollution And Its Effects On Personal Health

Global innovation institute RTI International has developed a wearable device called the MicroPEM or personal exposure monitor, to measure the adverse effects of pollution on a person’s health. The MicroPEM continually measures both the levels of pollutants in the air, as well as an individual’s physical activity using acceleration and motion sensors. Using the data collected from the sensor, researchers are also able to calculate a person’s varied breathing rates as they perform different levels of physical activity, from using a treadmill, to just taking a stroll.

A Monitor That Worries About Your Posture

In an effort to improve the posture of computer users, Philips Electronics has created a desktop display called the ErgoSensor Monitor that uses a built-in CMOS sensor to detect and alert users to poor posture. The built-in monitoring technology measures the distance between a user’s pupils to determine whether they are slouching, sitting too close or too far from their computer monitor, or if their neck is inclined at a poor ergonomic angle. The ErgoSensor uses this data to provide corrective feedback and remind a user to take a break if they’ve been sitting at their computer too long. Through monitoring one’s posture and providing real-time feedback, the device is designed to help prevent the physical strains that can occur after a long day of improper posture while seated at the computer.

Doctor Aspires To Crowdsource Heartbeat Data 

A website being created by Dr. Leslie Saxon at the USC Center for Body Computing aims to create an online database of every normal heartbeat in the world in order to find out more about how the heart works. The website,, will allow people to log their heart rate using data collected by any available heart monitoring sensor. The site will aggregate and analyze all of the heartbeat data that is reported to find global patterns and even warn individuals of potential heart issues. Compared to listening to heartbeats only when hearts might be unhealthy, collecting data from healthy hearts creates a better baseline for personal and public health, with the hopes that key cardiac risks may be better understood.

iPad App Helps Kids With Autism Improve Communication Skills

AutisMate is an iPad application designed as a communication and therapy tool for those managing the language and generalization issues associated with Autism. The app has over 12,000 included symbols, custom voice recordings, and synthesized voices to fully and easily customize the app for its user’s current and future needs. Users can also upload videos, pictures, and voice recordings to help build audio and visual libraries that autistic children can turn to for reference in overcoming everyday challenges around communication. The app uses the iPad’s GPS to present users with scenes that are relevant to their current location. For instance, pressing a star on the sink in the kitchen scene will bring up a video that demonstrates how to wash your hands in the sink. Content within the app can be shared via email, and the app supports multiple users, so it could be used by therapists who work with several different autistic children for research purposes.

Research Study Determines Materialism Is A Mental Disorder

Researchers at Northwestern University have concluded that individuals who place a high value on wealth and status are more depressed, anxious and introverted than those who do not. To complete the study, the researchers subjected a sampling of Northwestern University students to four tests that were designed to heighten the students’ sense of materialism. The researchers then asked the participants to complete questionnaires that revealed how the students’ outlook towards both themselves and others had changed. For example, in one test, the experimenters found that exposing subjects to certain words and images of luxury goods evinced more competitiveness and less desire in investing time in pro-social activities like working for a non-profit.

Researcher Uses Text-Messages To Ease Isolation In Mentally Ill Patients

Adrian Aguilera, a clinical psychologist and social welfare professor at the University of California, Berkeley, has developed a customized Short Message Service (SMS) intervention program which automatically sends text-messages to his patients and prompts them to take their medications as well as rate their moods. Aguilera found that patients suffering from depression and other mental disorders reported feeling more connected and cared for when they received the text-message prompts. For example, after the program was put on hold due to technical problems, patients reported ‘missing it’ and about 75 percent of the patients in the SMS intervention program requested that they continue receiving the text-messages even after their trial period had ended.

Graphene Tooth Tattoo Monitors Oral Health

By effectively tattooing a paper-thin, bacteria-detecting sensor onto a tooth, researchers at Princeton University have been able to create a way to wirelessly monitor oral health. The graphene sensor incorporates antimicrobial peptides to bond with bacteria and a power-generating resonant coil to detect individual bacterial cells without the need for an onboard power supply. The sensor uses radio frequency identification (RFID) to report back to monitoring equipment that can tell whomever is observing the bacteria levels of the tooth being tracked.

Get Peer-Reviewed Public Health Advice From Registered Doctors

HealthTap is a national rating system and physician experience catalog that makes available personalized, public advice from registered doctors. Making physician expertise more transparent, the platform matches patients to treatments and doctors based on the type of advice patients are seeking. Advice is peer-reviewed in a constructive manner, encouraging doctors to agree with a solution proposed by a colleague or offer an alternative approach.  Pairing advice with a comprehensive ranking system, the platform incentivizes a change of behavior in the medical community, shifting knowledge-based, community-building conversations increasingly online.

Robotic Hand Gets A Human-like Grip Using String Artificial Tendons 

A team of German researchers has created a robotic arm that is both strong and delicate by using a string actuator that acts as an artificial tendon. Housed in a compact structure resembling a human arm, the artificial tendons provide precise control to each of the finger segments and allow the sensorized robotic hand to lift objects and gently place them in a new position. The hand has been demonstrated lifting a Easter egg and a heavy glass bottle, and its developers say that the technology could be employed as a home-helper, in industrial applications or for use in rescue robots.

Hotel Founder Develops System For Measuring Employee Happiness

Chip Conley, Founder of Joie De Vivre Hospitality and the author of Emotional Equations, has created indices for measuring the well-being of employees and customers as a way to test his hypothesis that it would increase the bottom line of his hotel chain. Measures of qualitative data, such as the strength of relationships and individual happiness levels, are often left out equations calculating profits because it is difficult to measure, unlike hard, quantitative data. Creating measurable formulas like anxiety = uncertainty x powerlessness, Conley systematically gave his organizations a concrete method for addressing human needs and gaining insight into what drives them. At his line of Joie de Vivre hotels, Conley’s algorithm led to significant increases in customer loyalty and a employee turnover rate well below the industry standard, as well as increases in overall profits.


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 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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