Thursday, February 28, 2013

Surgery Helps Paralysis Patients Walk Again

paralytic patient on treadmill

Dr. Justin Brown, a neurosurgeon in San Diego, is helping patients suffering from paralysis walk again!

Most recently, he helped Rick Constantine, 58, who, following a car crash had a brain stem stroke which resulted in paralysis of the right side of the body. He was told that he would never be able to walk again. He tried physical therapy but that gave him unsubstantial benefits.

The surgery that Dr. Brown performed on Rick is called a selective peripheral neurotomy and is done under a microscope. Essentially, this surgery trims the troublesome nerve branch by up to 80 percent, thus reducing the amount of "noise" being sent back to the spinal cord. The noise is what causes the spasticity.

Rehabilitation can begin 72 hours after the procedure. Rick was walking without a walker two weeks after the procedure and even finished a 1 mile race without any assistance.

Watch the video to see what Dr. Brown's patients are saying about their experiences. Dr. Brown also explains the surgery in great technical detail.

Anyone requiring more information about this surgery should call 858-657-7000.

Source: UC San Diego Health System, Science Daily via Bill Shackleton

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bionic Hand That Offers Touch And Feel Real Time

An amputee testing the bionic hand

The last few years have seen a tremendous amount of progress when it comes to prosthetics. However, one limitation of these prosthetic limbs (if it is one) is the lack of sensation - clinching an object does not invoke a sense of touch since the limb is not connected to the nervous system.

Bionic hand description showing where motors, tendon tension sensor and tactile sensors areRecently, scientists at The École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and Project Time have developed a new bionic hand that has sensors on the fingertips and connects to the nervous system of the amputee by implanting electrodes directly in two important nerves - median and ulnar, and deliver signals directly, thus enabling the person to feel the touch. Essentially, the limb is controlled by thought as well as receives touch signals from the hand sensors.

Feeling the touch/sensory signals is essential because the more sensory signals the amputee gets, the more likely the patient will fully accept and appreciate the limb.

The scientists are constantly improving and refining the interface for this limb and if all goes well, a full working model will be ready for testing in two years.

Source: The Independent, Project TimeGizmodo, Engadget
Images source: Engadget, The Independent

Monday, February 18, 2013

FDA Approved Bionic Eye

A man wearing Argus 2
Image source: Engadget

The FDA recently approved a bionic eye that will bring limited vision to people who suffer from a specific type of blindness.

The technology behind this bionic eye, known as artificial retina, will allow people who suffer from retinitis pigmentosa (a condition that causes night blindness, blurring, poor color separation, etc.), to see crosswalks, outlines of trees, cars, people; large numbers/letters among other things. It also helps them identify objects that have a contrast between light and dark - for example, black socks mixed with white ones.

This new device, named Argus II, uses electrodes implanted in the eye, a pair of glasses with a camera attached and a portable video processor that can be worn on the waist. The camera embedded in the glasses captures the scene. This video is processed by the video processor and sent to the implant in the eye, which emits small pulses of electricity that in turn simulate the retina's remaining cells, and conveys visual information to the brain.

As of now, 10,000 to 15,000 Americans will qualify for the Argus II (eligibility: must be over 25; have previously had useful vision. Also, the Argus II should provide a substantial improvement to their current blindness). The device would cost around $150,000 and that does not include the cost of surgery and training. Second Sight, the company that makes this device, is hopeful that soon insurance companies would start covering it.

As mentioned above, this device is currently being made available only to people suffering from retinitis pigmentosa, but it is being looked at as a promising step for treatment for people who have macular degeneration. Eventually, Second Sight plans to use this technology to solve blindness caused by all causes.

Please read the article at the source link to learn more about this technological marvel that has opened many avenues in the assistive technology area. Don't forget to watch the video at the top of that source article too!

What do you think of this invention? A blessing for sure, but does it have limitations? Does it require a lot of work still? What are your thoughts? Please share in the comments section!

Source: NY Times (thank you, Tom Walton!)
Video: Engadget

Saturday, February 2, 2013

ASETNIOP Keyboard: A Revolutionary Keyboard For People With Disabilities

asetniop keyboard on ipad
The QWERTY keyboard has been around for ages and is the de facto standard for all devices we use that involve typing. However, it may be does not provide too much flexibility to people who may have visual impairment, not so good motor skills or over flexible joints (think Ehlers-Danlos syndrome). Of course,  another limitation, if I may, of QWERTY keyboards is that it if it's being used on a touch device like a tablet, it occupies a substantial amount of real estate which may be frustrating for people with low vision who may want to see a larger amount of enlarged text at a time on the screen.

asetniop keyboard layout
To solve all these problems, and to essentially allow users to type wherever they want to (that's a bold statement, isn't it?!), Zack Dennis has devised the smarter, flexible ASETNIOP keyboard that only consists of 10 (one for each finger) invisible keys! A single tap on the  eight "finger" keys produce one of the ASETNIOP characters, and the two thumbs are used for "space", "enter" etc. The rest of the letters are produced by pressing two fingers at the same time - a two key combo, if you will, which are known as chords. These chords can be used to store commonly used words, automatic correction, and text predictions. With the ASETNIOP keyboard, what matters is which fingers are pressed down.

The best part about this keyboard is that its size can be adjusted to provide ample space for all ten fingers to press down comfortably. The visualization below depicts how uniformly the finger taps are distributed across the keyboard.

asetniop keyboard distribution of finger presses

To watch a demo of this keyboard, watch the following video:

The ASETNIOP keyboard is available for the desktop and the iPad. Give it a shot!


Read the full press release for more exciting information and to see a demonstration of someone typing 83 wpm on the ASETNIOP keyboard!