News / Science & Technology

‘Smart’ Spoon Allows Parkinson's Sufferers to Feed Themselves

‘Smart’ Spoon Allows Parkinson's Sufferers to Feed Themselvesi
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January 14, 2014
One of the biggest challenges for people living with Parkinson’s is the difficulty - and sometimes inability - to feed themselves, due to the shaking tremors associated with the disease. But help might be on the way. A new, high-tech, “smart” spoon promises to stabilize the vibrations. VOA’s Brian Allen has the story.
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Brian Allen
One of the biggest challenges for people living with Parkinson’s is the difficulty - and sometimes inability - to feed themselves, due to the shaking tremors associated with the disease. But help might be on the way. A new, high-tech, “smart” spoon promises to stabilize the vibrations.

For people suffering from Parkinson’s disease, a disorder of the central nervous system, simply eating a meal can be an ordeal.

The most common symptoms of the disease are related to movement. The basic act of getting food from plate to mouth can be difficult and frustrating.

But now there might be a solution. LiftLabs, based in San Francisco, California, has developed a small device that tracks and compensates for small vibrations and tremors.

Anupam Pathak, the founder and CEO of LiftLabs, explained that the technology behind Liftware is similar to the image stabilization feature in high end cameras.

“What we have done is taken that same concept and applied it to a handheld device, that would help people with a lot larger jitters," said Pathak. "So somebody with a neurological disorder might be moving up to an inch [2.5 centimeters] in magnitude. There is a little computer inside that is running an algorithm, that would basically sense the person’s motion, determine if that was intentional or unintended, and if it was unintended, move opposite to what that motion does.”

The result is the device remains smooth and level, despite the movement of the user’s arm or hand. Food that normally would fly off remains on the spoon.

“Being able to see somebody eat on their own for the first time, or even just eat better, has been a hugely impactful thing,” said Pathak.

The device costs $295, though LiftLabs also accepts donations to help those who cannot afford to buy one.

“We basically just have a donate button [on our website] for whatever amount they like, and once we get enough for a device, we’ll send one out to the International Tremor Foundation or any one of the other Parkinson’s foundations, and they have a list of people who might be coming from economic hardship and might not be able to afford a device like this,” said Pathak.

A spoon is currently the only attachment for the Liftware device, but Pathak promises that more attachments - like a deeper soup spoon and a fork - will be available soon.

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