PSFK Picks: Top 10 Health Innovations Of The Week

PSFK Picks: Top 10 Health Innovations Of The Week

From a mirror that can instantly read your pulse to a method for communicating with coma patients, we bring you the most innovative stories from the world of wellness research.

Scott Lachut, PSFK Labs
  • 9 december 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.

Integrating Health Technology Into Everyday Devices
Ming-Zher Poh, an electrical engineer in the Affective Computing Group at the MIT Media Lab, has developed a two-way mirror using a reflective LCD monitor with a built-in webcam that is able to read a person’s pulse by scanning their image. Because blood absorbs light, every time a person’s heart beats, the blood in their face increases and less light is reflected to the camera. Although the change in brightness is minute, Poh adapted a signal-processing algorithm originally designed to pick out single voices from a room full of conversation to detect the variation. Poh has also co-founded an app called Cardiio that transforms a smartphone into a stethoscope, with a goal of building tools that allow people to experiment with, learn about and better manage their health.

Track Any Fitness Activity With This Sleek Sensor
The Shine is a small, disc-shaped fitness tracker created by Misfit Wearables that can sense a user’s movement including their swim strokes, bike pedals and steps. Constructed out of aircraft-grade aluminum, the tiny device can be slipped into a shoe, a bra or almost anywhere else and can be synced to a smartphone simply by placing the sensor on the mobile device’s surface. Users can set fitness goals using an associated iOS app and the sensor displays your progress in the form of a row of lights – the more lights that are lit up, the closer a user is to completing his/her goal. The mobile tracker is the latest in a fast-growing product line of fitness sensors that are enabling their users to closely monitor their fitness levels by providing detailed breakdowns of daily activity.

Infrared Lens May Turn Smartphones Into Point-And-Shoot Thermometers
Inventor Jacob Fraden has patented an idea that would see the use of smartphones as point-and-shoot thermometers capable of determining body temperature by simply scanning a patient’s forehead. By aiming the infrared sensor at an object, the device would be able to accurately take its temperature in less than a second. The feature would require that new phones come equipped with a small infrared lens, but if implemented, the technology wouldn’t be limited to humans and could be used on pets or inanimate objects like stoves or bathtubs. Fraden is pitching his innovation to smartphone manufacturers, but it still remains to be seen if infrared sensors are on the drawing board as a possible new smartphone hardware feature.

High-Tech Insoles Monitor Every Step You Take To Improve Gait
Mechanical engineering professor, Stacy Bamberg, is developing a ‘smart’ insole paired with a smartphone app, designed to give users feedback on how they walk. Called Rapid Rehab, the gel insole is comprised of two force-sensitive resistors that measure pressure when the patient’s foot is on the ground, an accelerometer for detecting leg movement and a gyroscope for determining the angle of the foot. The sensors transmit their various data wirelessly to a smartphone that uses a custom app to create a real-time profile of the patient’s gait. The Rapid Rehab insoles can be used by patients at anytime during their normal schedule, not just in a lab, providing more objective feedback than can be obtained from a physical therapist.

Cancer Patients Benefit From Pet Therapy With Interactive Webcams
A new initiative will enable young cancer patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital with immunities too low to participate in pet therapy to ‘physically’ connect with cats, puppies and rabbits via an interactive online playroom. A live interface set up by Idaho-based Reach-in will let children remotely control fluffy pet-toys and interact with the animals in real-time. In addition to the furry creatures, the kids will also be able to control a mini-submarine in an aquatic environment that features live fish as part of game to locate a sunken ship. Numerous studies suggest that animals can have a significant positive impact on children’s self-esteem and social skills, and can help ameliorate the effects and aftereffects of trauma.

Artificial Wombs Could Make Sexless Reproduction A Reality
Recent developments in genetics and bioengineering have made it possible to produce healthy embryos outside of a mother’s womb. Researchers from Cornell University have created an artificial uterus, which successfully hosted an embryo, and scientists at Juntendo University in Japan have been able to gestate goat fetuses for 3 weeks, the longest incubation period possible with current technology. Although estimates still point to 10 or more years for full incubation, some scientist believe that these programs among others will eventually be able to grow a human fetus. Artificial wombs would guarantee all of the necessary nutrients and would reduce the baby’s risk of accident, alcohol, disease or hormonal imbalances. Sexless reproduction could raise many issues and outcomes namely around intimacy, resolving gender pay inequality by enabling career women to stay at work and give ‘birth,’ same-sex couples being able to mix DNA and create a genetic child or aspiring parents to remain independent while waiting for their child to be ‘born.’

Brain Scan Allows Coma Patient To Communicate With Doctors
By using an fMRI scan to read the brain activity of a man who had been in a persistent vegetative state for 12 years, doctors were able to ask him basic questions about whether he was feeling pain and establishing that he understood who and where he was. The scans measure the blood flow to an area of the front of the brain called the premotor cortex. Patients are asked to imagine themselves playing tennis, and then asked if to answer yes or no to the question, “Are you playing tennis?” The blood-flow pattern can then be used to deduce the answers to other yes-no questions. The attending neurologist was astonished by his patient’s cognitive abilities, given that he had shown no outward signs of recognition. While not all patients will respond to the scans, this study represents a breakthrough in how doctors view and communicate with patients who are in comas.

Online Site Lets Patients Ask Doctors Sensitive Questions Online is an online site that connects individuals seeking medical advice to doctors, lawyers and other professionals in lieu of physically visiting an office. The site is built specifically for those people either interested in avoiding costly trips to the doctor or seeking advice on topics that are uncomfortable to ask about in-person. Out of 1,000 people surveyed in research for the site, 63% said they are more likely to ask about sensitive topics like sex and STDs online and 65% of people said they have avoided going to the doctor in favor of seeking medical information online. lets allows individuals receive professional advice on a variety of topics ranging from health insurance to specific ailments for a monthly fee.

Reddit Helps Man Diagnose Testicular Cancer From Positive Pregnancy Test
A man jokingly relieved himself on a pregnancy test strip and it resulted in a positive symbol indicating pregnancy, prompting confusion and his story to be post on the popular online news aggregator, Reddit. A reader comment noted ‘If this is true, you should check yourself for testicular cancer. Seriously’. All pregnancy tests check for a pregnancy hormone called Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), which is produced by the placenta in women and is thus a reliable indicator of pregnancy. HCG is also produced in men suffering from a rare but aggressive form of testicular cancer called choriocarcinoma. Choriocarcinoma tumors secrete HCG, which is identical to the hormone secreted by placentas. This particular form of cancer makes up less than 1% of all testicular cancer diagnoses, which itself is a relatively rare form of cancer. Upon taking the commenter’s advice, the individual visited a doctor who found a very small tumor in the man’s right testicle, catching it early enough that treatment is possible.

Online Ordering Site Matches Food With Desired Nutrition
MealDestiny is an online startup in San Francisco that helps individuals order food from restaurants that match their taste, dietary requirements and health goals. Users begin by taking a taste and nutritional goal survey, and can then browse dishes from nearby restaurants that correspond with their profiles and budget. Meals are matched and optimized based on the results from the survey, and visualized on the site complete with detailed nutritional info. Users can then order personalized meals recommended just for them, with easy delivery, pickup and takeout options available.

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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