You might be appalled when you consider what you cannot do when you have severe hand tremors. Shaky hands make it difficult — if not impossible — to write legibly, type, use a mouse, insert a key in a lock, retrieve a card or cash to pay for goods, button a blouse or shirt, tie shoes, or even eat. We have previously looked at Health Tech products designed for people with Parkinson’s Disease, including a headband to alleviate symptoms and the REMPACK monitor to detect issues with gait. Another wearable tech device was inspired when a medical trainee observed an elderly Parkinson’s patient with significant hand tremors who was losing weight; when she struggled to eat a bowl of soup, most of it ended up on the front of her clothes.
From this simple but heart-rending observation, the trainee and a group of students and graduates of the Imperial College London formed GyroGear. The company’s mission is to develop technology that enables Parkinson’s patients and anyone else with significant hand tremors to steady their hands and perform what for many of us are the simplest life tasks. The GyroGlove is still in development with no scheduled release date. The company is asking for volunteers to participate in testing. It was recognized in 2015 by being named one of the 2015 Nominet Trust 100 (NT100) for uses of technology for good and as one of 15 Millennial Trailblazers by Telefonica’s Digital Futures, chosen among other tech start-ups from the boroughs of London.
The GyroGlove uses gyroscopes; these are spinning discs that, just like a child’s top, utilize the force of spinning to maintain stability. They spontaneously and proportionately react to forces that influence them to leave their upright position. In the GyroGlove prototypes (the earliest of which reduced tremors by 80% according to the company), the mechanism is enclosed in a half-glove strapped to the back of the hand. A smartphone app tracks the time and intensity of tremors; this data can be useful in adjusting medication. The team’s goals are to develop a final design that weighs 200 grams (about 7 ounces) or less, spins at 15,000 revolutions per minute, and produces a stabilizing force of 1200 grams.
Helping people with severe shaking from Parkinson’s Disease or other conditions can significantly enable independence and freedom. If these three projects successfully make it to market, patients and their loved ones and caregivers are sure to see significantly improved quality of life.