Wearable gyroscope aims to reduce tremors in Parkinson’s sufferers

I’ve written a bit recently about the use of robotics to help return use of the hand to those who have previously lost such an ability.  For instance, EsoGlove is a lightweight rehabilitation device that aims to improve on existing robotic hand rehabilitation devices.

Or you’ve got the device developed by researchers at Johns Hopkins University that taps into our brain waves to drive the actions of the prosthesis.

A steady hand

A recent project by researchers at Imperial College London is tapping into the methods that have proved so successful in gyroscopes to help Parkinson’s sufferers retain independence.

The device, which the team have called GyroGlove, attempts to reduce the hand tremors that make life so challenging for those with the disease.

The glove is a bit like placing your hand inside a thick syrup that makes movement free but considerably slower than would normally be the case.

When the device was tested it resulted in 90% fewer tremors than would ordinarily be experienced by the user.

The design itself is deceptively simple and uses a miniature gyroscope that sits on the back of the hand.  The gyroscope is housed within a plastic casing that’s attached to the glove.

When the gyroscope is switched on, it helps the user to retain their balance via a precession hinge and turntable that push back against the users movements to ensure stability is maintained.

The next steps

Suffice to say, the device is still in a very early stage and will require refinements to its size and noise.  Nevertheless, they are confident that it can provide huge benefits to users’ quality of life.

The company has already achieved prominence in a number of start-up and innovation challenges, but there remains work to be done before it can be made commercially available.

“Gyroscopes must be balanced properly according to the speeds at which they are operating,” the developers explain. “Simple as they are, being able to spin them silently and reliably at thousands of RPM is another key challenge.”

They hope that this work can be completed by autumn this year, with a public launch price of somewhere around the $700 mark.  If all goes well, the team believe their gyroscope inspired approach could also work for other body parts that suffer from tremors, such as the legs.

Alternatively, it could be used in professional contexts where a steady hand is invaluable, whether that’s in the operating theater or the sporting arena.

It’s certainly a product that has developed good initial feedback from the Parkinson’s community, and it will be fascinating to see how it unfolds when it hits the marketplace.  One to keep an eye on.

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