Microsoft's Emma Watch could help people with Parkinson's

Sometimes technology is used to really help people's lives.

emma watch and tablet
Microsoft

Technology lets us do some pretty amazing things, and every now and then we hear stories about technology making a huge difference in someone's life.

Microsoft highlighted one such story at their Build 2017 developer conference this week, when they showed the video about a woman with Parkinson's, and a device developed by one of Microsoft's researchers that helps with Parkinson's tremors.

In IT Blogwatch, we love a feel-good story. 

So what is going on? Andy Weir has some background:

This week, Microsoft is hosting its Build 2017 developer conference...where it's already made a wide range of announcements - from 500 million Windows 10 devices, to Visual Studio for Mac general availability...and the new Azure IoT Edge platform.
...
But along with all the...big announcements in its day one keynote, Microsoft also showcased [an]...experimental project led by one of its researchers, which began when she met a young woman affected by hand tremors caused by Parkinson's disease.

And what does this experimental project entail? Brian Fagioli has more details:

"Emma"...is a wrist wearable that can help people suffering with Parkinson's disease.
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The device is named after the Parkinson's sufferer that helped Haiyan Zhang, innovation director at Microsoft Research, create the device...the incurable disease causes body tremors in those inflicted, and as a result, Emma [Lawton] has very shaky hands. This disease makes it impossible for her to draw straight lines or write legibly. With the wearable on her wrist, however, normal writing and drawing is possible.

But how does it work? Marco della Cava has some details:

Emma Watch remains a prototype...but the developers are working with a neuroscience research team to undertake trials with a small group of Parkinson's sufferers.
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The watch works through a combination of sensors and A.I...techniques to potentially detect and monitor symptoms like tremors, stiffness and instability, among others.

And what do these technologies actually do? Microsoft's Bill Briggs fills in the blanks:

In people with Parkinson’s, the brain fires off extra signals to muscles, creating a chaotic, internal feedback loop that causes muscles to...perform many movements at once. That creates tremors. The vibrations from the watch seem to cause Lawton’s brain to focus on her right wrist, apparently reducing the brain’s messages to that spot.

Is this a one type fits all device? Shilpa explains that it isn't:

Zhang..spent six months...prototyping this new wearable device for...Emma...Since the pattern of vibration differs from person to person, one can connect this wearable to Windows 10 tablet which has an app to control the vibration speed...One can choose the type of vibration that suits their needs. For Lawton, the rhythmic vibration worked well.

So how are people reacting to the Emma watch story? If Microsoft wanted a tearjerker, they got one. Lisa Crankshaw‏ confirms:

Makes me cry every time I see this, it's just so amazing!

Want to see the Emma watch in action? Microsoft shared this handy video:

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