Facial palsy is a condition where the facial nerve on one (or both) sides of the face becomes damaged. This nerve controls the muscle groups that we use to make facial expressions, and palsy will cause that side to droop. This condition can be caused by bacterial or viral infection, traumatic injury, or certain neurological conditions. Rehab typically consists of the patient performing a series of exercises while observing the results in a mirror. Unfortunately, this is often difficult and demoralizing for the patient, and compliance with the exercise regimen is often low.

Researchers in a consortium of agencies led by Nottingham Trent University have developed a new approach using a smart wearable device. Their Facial Remote Activity Monitoring Eyewear (Frame) project has resulted in a design for connected glasses frames that monitor the muscle movements of the patient’s face. It can track the movement and intensity of the different muscle groups. This approach make it easier for a patient to practice exercises without being confronted constantly by their own image. The system can provide feedback about their progress, and provide a record for physicians and therapists. Controlled by a smartphone app, the system could include gamification strategies to increase patient motivation.

This system has other potential applications as well. A paralyzed patient could use facial muscle motions to control devices such as a powered wheelchair. And since facial expressions often closely correlate with an individual’s moods, the glasses could be used to monitor a patient’s emotional status. This is a good example how a single sensor system could produce data that is useful for multiple applications.