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]

58 thoughts on “Self-stabilizing Spoon for People with Parkinson’s

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

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

      1. I doubt the price would go down. Quite the opposite, in fact: the economics of private health insurance tend to drive prices up.

    3. 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.

  2. 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.

    1. Oooh, that would be amazing actually. Depending on what day it is, messing around with small SMD parts can be a pain.

      1. Using a magnifying glass or a video microscope has the curious side effect of stabilizing small hand movement because of improved feedback.

    2. As someone whose lost their ability to solder from tremors I would certainly welcome that advancement.

  3. 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?

    1. Vibration reduction? Yes. Usable? Hardly.Even if all you did was to make the tip beefier and out of some dense inert material, you still have to remember that people afflicted with tremmors aren’t necessarily as strong as a cameraman. Never forget the gorilla-arm problem either.

  4. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

      1. Ah yes. Forgot about how many certification hoops you’d need to jump through for something which would most probably be classed as a medical device :(

      1. 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.

      2. 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.

  5. 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.

    1. the problem with a mechanical solution is you can’t really compensate for the weight of different amounts or different density foods

  6. 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).

  7. 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!

  8. 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? :)

    1. 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.

    2. 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

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

  10. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

  11. 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

    1. I don’t mind commercial stuff, as long as I don’t feel like it’s sneaking in an ad. If it was for something I might buy, I’d be bothered, cos it’s up to me to go looking. But this is an interesting unusual use for technology.

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

  13. 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.

  14. 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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