Gamers help neuroscientists map the brain and a vibrating shoe guides the blind: the most innovative stories from the world of wellness.
PSFK has partnered with Boehringer Ingelheim to bring you a snapshot of Five Innovative Ideas each week that are reshaping the health care industry. Continue reading below for the most exciting ideas from the past seven days.
Neuroscientists are turning to the public’s natural proclivity towards games as a means to advance medical research and quickly collect vast amounts of data that they would not be able to gather on their own. One such game, Eyewire, created by MIT neuroscientist, Sebastian Seung, attempts to chart the neurons in the back of the eyes of mice by challenging users to follow and color in neural paths. Eyewire currently has over 35,000 registered users and Seung feels that if this game is a success it can subsequently be applied to chart the billions of nerve connections in the human brain. A similar game, Foldit, created by the Center for Game Science at the University of Washington, is designed to study how proteins fold which could ultimately have an affect on diseases like cystic fibrosis. Folidit has amassed over 500,000 registered players and its success has legitimized the idea of using games for research in the scientific community.
Many visually impaired individuals rely on a cane to help them navigate, but TED senior fellow and eye surgeon Anthony Vipin Das envisions a future in which shoes will replace the need for any additional navigational tools. Vipin Das has developed an insole that can fit into any shoe that uses haptic vibration and GPS to help guide the visually impaired. The technology, called Le Chal, will vibrate to alert the wearer to a turn or an obstacle in their path, and stops vibrating when the user is back on the correct path. The shoe is currently still in development, but Vipin was recently shortlisted for a $2M research grant from the US Department of Defense.
UVeBand is a wristband that measures UVA and UVB rays, vibrating when it’s time to reapply sunscreen. A UV detector inside a small window on the band tracks the intensity of the sun’s rays, collecting data every 3 seconds. Because the band registers the intensity of the sun’s rays, the time in between reapplying sunscreen is a dynamic measurement, not a preset limit of time. The band is also self-powering, collecting energy from the sun for power and using capacitive switching technology to know when it’s actually being worn- contact with the human skin turns the band on, and taking the band off turns the power off. The band could be worn everyday as a helpful monitor, or in sunny areas like the beach to increase awareness of proper sunscreen use and to prevent sun damage.
According to a new study, there are six markers present in human breath that could be used as indicators of overall stress levels. A team of researchers from Loughborough University and Imperial College London observed 22 men and women during two test periods. In the first, subjects sat comfortably listening to classical music. In the second, subjects were required to perform a Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test (PASAT), an arithmetic test specifically designed to cause psychological stress. Researchers measured the participants’ blood pressure and heart rates throughout both sessions, and administered breath tests before and after each one. It was found that there were several measurable chemical compounds emitted by the breath that were directly relational the the stress levels of the subject. It is hoped that eventually a standard stress test procedure can be developed by measuring breath, which will allow caregivers to know if non-communicative patients are experiencing stress.
Nike FuelBand creators are showing how powerful the activity points accrued during its users’ physical activity are, converting the activities into a measure of electricity for powering homes. The wearable technology measures physical activity in what it calls NikeFuel points using oxygen kinetics, which tracks not only steps and calories, but allows users to compare and contrast different sports and activities. Since FuelBand was introduced, users have earned more than 409 billion total fuel points. According to Nike, NikeFuel users earn more than 1 billion points each day, and converted to electricity, that energy would be enough to power 6,772 houses daily.
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