When my good friend Douglas’ parents were visiting from Michigan last year, we spent a great evening together, eating delicious pasta, laughing and sharing more than a few bottles of beer.
This year was a whole different story. The couple in their 60′s made their annual visit to California, but there were no dinner invitations, not even a suggestion to stop by. Douglas’ dad had developed Parkinson’s disease, and he was so embarrassed and exhausted by his constant shaking that he vetoed any get-together.
Now a brilliant new device may help Douglas’ father and everyone who suffers from tremors that make it difficult simply to bring a spoon or fork to their mouth without spilling the entire contents.
The Liftware Spoon is an electronic spoon that uses a microchip and sensors to detect the direction and force of a tremor, and then to motor the spoon in the opposite direction. By counteracting the movements of a wavering grip, the result of Parkinson’s, essential tremor or related disorders, shaking can be reduced by up to 70 percent.
It is estimated that nearly one million Americans have Parkinson’s disease, while up to ten million individuals worldwide may live with the disease. There is no known cure for Parkinson’s.
The disease, which is caused by a loss of brain cells that produce dopamine, is a movement disorder with symptoms that range from facial ticks to tremors in the hands, arms and legs, limb stiffness, reduced mobility and a loss of balance. In particular, Parkinson’s can make simple tasks like eating laborious.
This amazing spoon that could really make a difference.
A video from Lift Labs shows how it works:
The actual spoon part of the device detaches from the handle for washing, and the handle can be charged in a dock. It’s said the battery will last for “several mealtimes.”
For now at least, Liftware is just an eating device, but its makers plan to offer additional attachments that can be fitted to the handle in place of a spoon. A fork, a soup spoon and a keyholder are all listed as “coming soon” on the company’s website.
Rather than forcing a hand with tremor to stop moving, which can cause pain and discomfort, LiftWare responds to tremor and stabilizes what a person is trying to hold. The first product is a spoon which constantly steadies itself even while the user may be shaking. “When people with ET use our device, the effect is pretty remarkable,” says Pathak [Founder and CEO of Lynx Design, which is behind Lift Labs]. “We often see people spilling food everywhere with a regular spoon, but with LiftWare people are able to bring food from the plate to their mouth successfully and with ease.”
The results may not be perfect, and the spoon is only suitable for those with a 2-inch-or-less tremor, but this has to be a huge improvement over using a regular spoon.
The spoon will cost $295, which seems a small price to pay for something that could bring dramatic improvements for those suffering from Parkinson’s. Lift Labs has also developed a related free iOS and Android app called Lift Pulse that records a person’s tremor using the phone’s built-in accelerometers and calculates its magnitude. Users can set a baseline tremor that subsequent readings are compared to.
Hooray for technology!
Photo Credit: Lift Labs