Self-stabilizing Spoon for People with Parkinson’s


Here’s a really cool story we just picked up — a gyroscopic steady-spoon, designed for people with Parkinson’s disease or other tremor inducing ailments.

The creator [Anupam Pathak] is close to people who suffer from tremors, and seeing the problem up close and personal, he set out to create a solution. He started the company called Liftware, and has so far released the Lift spoon. It features an embedded microchip, sensors and a few small motors. It’s capable of stabilizing tremors of up to 2 inches, which in several medical studies resulted in approximately a 70% tremor cancellation rate!

If you haven’t seen the effects of Parkinson’s on anyone, watch the video after the break. You’ll have your heart strings pulled a bit seeing how difficult eating can be, but then amazed at the ingenuity and effectiveness of the Lift Spoon. We can only imagine the paradigm shift this will be for people suffering from tremors.

The technology to help these people is here — could it be possible to go even further and build a low-profile arm or hand steadying exoskeleton that could be hidden under a shirt sleeve?

[via Reddit]


  1. Chris C. says:

    That’s pure genius.

  2. rue_mohr says:

    cool stuff! (haha someone reinvented the fork)

  3. Kryoclasm says:

    This will bring joy to someones life when they are normally forced to endure a woe-some trial just to eat. Great idea!

  4. putzeing says:

    Absolutely amazing but $300 is a but excessive.

    • Dylan says:

      I agree it is a lot of money. On the other hand, if he’s getting a limited run done, all the electronics and board would cost more. He may be trying to make up for the injection molding faster that he should, the motors and board will have to be high speed. If I had to make just one of these, I would charge a lot more money than that. If he were to sell a lot of them, he should be able to drop the price to double digits. My boss’ son has MS and he didn’t flinch at the price if it’ll help his son in his day to day life. On someone with more of a budget, they may have to wait for the mark 2 and hope it can be done a little cheaper. On the other hand, how much would you pay to keep some dignity and some level of sanity. I’ve seen people break down in tears for less trouble than the individuals this is targeted to.

    • Hiatthe says:

      These may be covered by health insurance or governments in order to reduce the cost. If it catches on the price will drop as production increases as well. This amazing. And the multi purpose aspect is what really gets me. It can be everything from an eating utensil to a toothbrush.

    • gz says:

      If you needed glasses you’d spend it.

      As a person with a life long tremor that rarely (thankfully) can be a little pronounced, $300 to be able to feed yourself instead of having to ask someone else is nothing.

      You are reduced to drinks with lids or half-full cups and things you can hold with two hands. If you want to see the value, go a week eating nothing but things you hold with two hands, even the ones that don’t require two hands.

  5. tekkieneet says:

    There might also be a market for people with hands too shaky for
    soldering or working with very small parts. Not that I need one myself.

  6. t-bone says:

    Cheap steadycams can be made by hanging a weight on a rigidly mounted pole. Would a five-lb spoon (for example) dampen the vibrations? Would it even be usable?

  7. Dax says:

    Give it time before someone rigs it up to a handgun.

  8. masaleiro says:

    Liftware -> great stuff! :D

  9. Tiersten says:

    Very cool idea but the device is extremely expensive though at $295. The parts don’t look particularly unusual except for the casing so I don’t understand why the price is so high.

    • Dax says:

      Recouping R&D costs and compensating for small production and sales volumes.

      You can’t just crank out a million of them and expect to sell them all.

    • oodain says:

      writing proper software can be quite resource intensive, certification of a food related product may also be expensive depending on region.

      not saying a cheaper version wouldnt be amazing, but this is a “first-gen” device, with time that could change.

    • Eirinn says:

      Anything related to medico is insanely expensive… no idea why, but that’s just how it is.

      • Dax says:

        Thousand dollar hammer effect.

        Nobody knows how much it should be worth, the producer isn’t telling how much it really costs, and since there’s only one supplier and one paying customer (usually a national health service provider/insurer) there’s no market mechanism to drive prices down to reasonable levels.

      • F says:

        The companies that design and manufacture medical devices must carry enormously expensive product liability insurance and they have no choice but to pass those costs along.

  10. Daniel M says:

    You could just make the blade of the spoon swivel about the handle and attach a dampener weight to the blade (at the junction between the blade and handle) to dampen the vibrations. It would work wonders for teaching a toddler to eat as well. And, a purely mechanical solution would probably be similar in cost to a regular spoon.

  11. Eirinn says:

    This reminds me of camera gimbals. The technology is probably more or less the same. The gimbals for quad copters carrying gopro seem to be even faster (though with a much larger frame).

  12. Carlos W says:

    I have seen people with Parkinson’s struggle with basic tasks. $300 for a device like this (assuming that it works, and I do not see why it should not) seems like a bargain (at least in the developed world). With time some creative Chinese will copy and sell it for $50. Heck, I am pretty sure I could build one with an arduino and some extra devices (accel., gyro, some servos) for under $100, but it will not look so nice and will take too much time to do. Overall, this is a fantastic idea!

  13. Eirinn says:

    Also this is not a hack, it’s not even a project, it’s an advertisement for a commercial tool. While i deeply appreciate you posted this (my grandfather has tremor issues and this would help tremendously). I am not sure how i see this belonging here? :)

    • polossatik says:

      No need to start throwing kicstarter stuff on hack a day but brilliant “who did i not think of that” level stuff like this that one can see making an actual difference, bring it on,
      It’s existing technology put to good and novel use. Nice one.

    • F says:

      just about every hackaday story is basically an advertisement of some sort or another

      shoot half of the stories count as arduino advertisements

      most of the rest are ads for ARM controllers or 3-D printers

  14. sneakypoo says:

    I see a hint of something about related hacks but I can’t quite make it out, maybe bigger pictures would help :P

  15. Indyaner says:

    Am I the only one who is thinking about a chicken holding a spoon in its pecker would be work even better?

  16. Open source? That would get around the certification issues, also going through a charity might help.
    Case in point, many electronics magazines have featured medical devices such as pulse oximeters and TENS machines.
    Basically if you build it yourself and have the end user complete it by adding an “essential component” even if this is just soldering a battery connector the lawyers can’t do a thing about it because it is being completed by the end user.

    • SATovey says:

      How the blazes do you expect someone to be able to solder a part when that someone cannot hold a spoon or fork steady enough to feed themselves?
      Use your brain before you speak.

      I resist major urges to flame out on you.

      • Greenaum says:

        Then you get the user’s friend to do the final assembly, who has good hands. Or the man in the Moon, it doesn’t matter. The point he’s making is, you can hand off legal liability in this manner.

        The person who does the actual assembly doesn’t matter, just that it’s not the manufacturer who’s trying to dodge liability. That was the point of his post. Use your brain before you completely miss the point and let loose your wierd tangential insults. I can’t see how you could think Bother was suggesting people with severe Parkinsons take up soldering.

        If he’s right, of course, I wouldn’t wanna bet real money on it. A lot might come down to intention and appearances, and it’s been proved in court that black is white. Courtrooms might be a place for pedantry and smart-assedness, but it’s a different variety from the scientific one.

  17. AngelX says:

    i love it…

  18. Matt says:

    Be good for my two year old too….

  19. aztraph says:

    This shouldn’t even have to be said: Hacking is at the very heart of the innovation of technology, sometimes that’s used for good purposes, sometimes bad. If it’s innovative, it belongs on hack a day, no question whatsoever. If it’s used for the betterment of those with debilitating conditions and/or diseases, it’s a very good thing.

    Hack a day is about sharing ideas, someone else will get one of these, tweak it and make it better, then someone will do that with that version.

    This is a very good thing indeed

  20. JWRM22 says:

    The spoon is still pretty shaky… I think they can do much better. Maybe with a small counter weight. (Looking at camera stabilization etc.)

  21. krazeecain says:

    He should make something more like a generic handle instead, so you could clip in a spoon, fork, various tools, etc.

  22. w33d says:

    Simply THE BEST. Congratulations!

  23. Steve says:

    Wonderful. And, yes, I think the technology could be extended to the arm, as you suggest.

  24. Yes, the idea was to hand off liability to the end user.
    A lot of stuff you buy these days has a CE mark on it when none is required, almost like a magic charm to fend off the hungry, hungry lawyerbots.

    Might also be worth looking into using recycled accelerometers from old dead smartphone PCBs as well as the pancake motors and magnets from the lids.

  25. old dude says:

    Well from a more crass angle people being able too feed themselves that previously couldn’t saves a lot of personel in health care and makes the patients more autonomous. $300 is absolutely nothing with this perspective.

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