If you haven't seen it already, BeMyEyes is a wonderfully promising and impeccably presented app allowing fully sighted individuals to 'lend their eyes' to someone with a visual impairment to help them through their day. As the slick promo video above introduces beautifully, the app connects those in need of some eyes (a blind person needing to read a sign or label for example) with a community of people willing to help—who can use the blind person's smartphone camera to help with the needed task. I can hear the 'CEO's pitch already—'Like Uber for eyes!'.
To be clear, the device won't magically transform the tongue into a hearing organ, instead it transforms sounds waves into electrical stimulation applied to the tongue (apparently with a sensation similar to sampling sparkling wine). In time, the sensation can be interpreted by the brain—a bit like braille in your mouth.
These developments are of course very exciting (we're wondering what implications these ideas could have for the impaired and unimpaired alike) but if you've been listening to This American Life's podcast recently you might already be questioning if these developments are as beneficial as they seem.
I once got stabbed in the head with a wooden knife. It was an accident that occurred during a martial arts training exercise. I'd heard that head wounds bleed badly, but as I waited for the taxi to take me to the hospital (an ambulance is not what you take in NYC if speed is a priority) I was shocked at the amount of blood that came out of my head.
While head wounds are bad, severing a femoral or carotid artery is way worse in terms of blood loss. If you slice one of these open and can't stop the bleeding, that's basically the last selfie you'll ever take. But now a tiny biotech company in Brooklyn can change that equation, having developed a product that stops bleeding, whether pinprick or grievous wound, almost instantly.
Called VetiGel, the material is a plant-based polymer. It requires no training to use and can be loaded into an ordinary plastic syringe; rather than needing to learn how to prepare a field dressing, someone providing aid can simply aim and squirt it like toothpaste onto a brush. Watch how it works in this video:
The leftover material, by the way, can be safely resorbed into the body or removed.
As for why it's called VetiGel, the material is first being marketed towards veterinarians, with approval for human use planned for further down the line.
Should the product pass human trials and prove affordable enough to manufacture, it could be a real game changer: Simple syringes loaded up with the stuff and placed into every ambulance, soldier's pack and first aid kit around the world could mean the difference between life and death for countless people, particularly those for whom a hospital is more than a cab ride away.
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The AliveCor heart monitor is the first FDA-cleared device to let patients monitor their heart rhythm through a smart phone, enabling cost-efficient, timely diagnosis of cardiac arrhythmias for those at risk. Designed by Karten Design.
With the explosion of wearable technology and legislation like the Affordable Care Act, the medical product industry is rapidly evolving. Healthcare is seeing unprecedented changes, creating new opportunities for devices that connect consumers and doctors to information faster, easier, and more efficiently.
"It's coming to a point where there are just amazing breakthroughs every day," says Tor Alden, Principal and CEO at HS Design (HSD), where he has been directly involved in medical design for over 14 years. "[Technologists] are innovating and changing the landscape of how healthcare is going to be done to the point where we're not going to recognize it in the next three or four years from where it is now." It's a changing landscape that has caught the eye of many innovative startups, who now make up half of HSD's client list. "These new products have amazing technology, but it needs to be humanized and centered on user needs to be successful." HSD is positioning itself to be a bridge connecting the medical and healthcare startups with the investment banker communities. Alden predicts that if the growth continues at this rate, that number could be closer to 80% in the next few years.
One of the factors opening the door for innovation in the medical device industry is the Affordable Care Act. As requirements roll out for health care providers, there is an increasing need for new tools and products that ensure patient compliance. Take a typical hip replacement, for example: Under the Affordable Care Act, if a doctor or hospital is not tracking the compliance and rehabilitation of that patient and they return within a year with no improvement, the hospital owes money to the government. There's a financial incentive to make sure patients get better and, therefore, to track and evaluate their progress. This could spur invention around hip replacements—possibly leading to one with a chip (i.e., embedded UDI) to track rehabilitation or remind patients to get complete their physical therapy exercises.
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Taking a step beyond static X-ray images, the OrthoSonos™ system detects friction across a joint's full range of motion, giving surgeons a clearer picture of patients' joint health. Designed by Karten Design.
Bringing a consumer product to market is a challenge in and of itself—taking an idea through concept development, business analysis, beta testing, product launch, and beyond. Add the FDA to the mix, and it's a whole 'nother story. This is the challenge faced by medical device and product firms, which not only have to make a fully functioning, well-designed product but also have to put it through several rounds of rigorous testing by the FDA and other regulatory bodies.
"They're parameters. They don't stop you from doing anything, but they do make you do it in a way that you, as a user, would probably think is a good thing," says Aidan Petrie, Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Ximedica, an FDA-registered product development firm with an exclusive focus on medical products. On any given day, Ximedica is running 40 individual programs, overseeing the steps required to bring these products to market. "We don't do anything that isn't a FDA-regulated product," says Petrie.
The timelines for these projects can run anywhere between two to six years. While time-to-market is not the primary driver, finding ways to close that gap can make a big difference in profitability. For companies like Ximedica and HS Design, closing that gap meant becoming International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 13485 certified. "There are so many regulatory and quality metrics that had to be put in place to satisfy those requirements that it made us a better and stronger company," explains Tor Alden, Principal and CEO at HS Design (HSD). "It also put us to a level where we couldn't just accept any client. We had to become more sophisticated as far as who our clients were and how we could say no or reach a point of compliancy." By building those regulations into the design process, these companies are able to anticipate and plan for any potential timely obstacles from the get-go.
I played crease attack on my high school's lacrosse team, and I sucked. The first two years I got laid out so many times while trying to set picks that by junior year, I'd accepted my complete lack of athletic ability and hung up the stick for good. (Frankly speaking the coach probably would have cut me anyway.)
Back then, it was rare to see the coach bench a player for safety reasons after he'd gotten his bell rung; it was the age of "Walk it off," where there simply wasn't concern for the concussed. But nowadays we're all well aware of the deleterious effects of a concussion, and until full-contact sports change in nature, there's room for design to try to make a difference. Designing stronger helmets sounds like a good move—but actually makes it worse. Players are emboldened by improved shielding and thus hit harder, causing more damage.
Bailey Williams is an ID major at Appalachian State University, and the oddly specific nature of her recent assignment will be familiar to many an industrial design student. Williams' class was tasked with designing products for people with particular physical disabilities. The card she drew: Two- to five-year-old children who suffer from dyspraxia, a developmental disorder that mucks up brain-to-body signals, impairing a child's motor skills.
As dyspraxia essentially renders children "clumsy" (in an undiagnosed view), making manual skills many of us take for granted difficult, Williams started off the way many of us would: By designing toothbrushes and spoons with easier-to-grasp handles. But then she had an insight: If a child could not get their hand to close around an object, perhaps a glove with magnetized fingertips could.
With a minor in Apparel and the attendant sewing skills, Williams whipped up some prototypes. As more people saw them, it became clear that her solution could help more people than children with dyspraxia:
The more people she shared the mock ups with, the more she learned of other potential users, such as stroke victims working to improve their grip and hand strength. 'The beauty of this product is that every time we show it to someone else they come up with ten more ways it can be used,' said Williams, who consulted with an occupational therapist at Watauga Medical Center. 'I was amazed that something so simple could be so helpful,' she said. That's what good design is about, said Kern Maass, an associate professor and coordinator of Appalachian's industrial design program. 'I tell students that if you design for the fringes, you solve for the masses,' he said of design methodology. 'And that's certainly true of Bailey's project.'
Having grown up with the kind that goes in your mouth, the first time I saw an ear thermometer I thought "Will technological wonders never cease?" The idea of drawing data out of your ear—the orifice we use to draw data in—seemed mind-blowing to me. (Then again, I was a C student in Biology.)
There's allegedly another product design surprise around the corner concerning the sucking of data out of ears. It's no secret that Apple's working on the iWatch, and the Mac fan blogs have all been breathlessly reporting on the biometric technologies Cupertino's reportedly getting their hands on. The iWatch, it's been popularly thought, will boast killer apps in the form of personal health monitoring. But now a poster on the anonymous, Silicon-Valley-based social network "Secret" is claiming that Apple's next-gen EarPods will be performing these duties.
One of the most popular wearable medical inventions so far might be the Band-Aid. A flexible strip that heals our cuts and burns and yet never slows us down. Well imagine if the band-aid could diagnose a problem and release therapeutic drugs hidden inside nanoparticles.
This is the new domain of a flexible very thin medical wearable under development by Korean researchers. And it gives a solid glimpse into our personalized medical future, and the future of wearable design.
The idea is that one day—in as little as five years—we'll have diagnostics and medical therapies delivered through devices that are as simple to wear as "a child's temporary tattoo," said Dae-Hyeong Kim, one of the researchers.
Wearable devices today are bulky, cold, obtrusive and impersonal. The future designs, like this proven patch, are intended to be nearly invisible to everyone including the wearer themselves.
Nanoscale membranes embedded into a stretchable, sticky fabric can detect tiny movements, deliver drugs and store all the necessary data. Now, this hasn't been tested on human patients yet, just pig skin. Their results are published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
Your correspondent was recently laid up for four days with the flu, an inevitability in an urban world where one must touch subway turnstiles, doorknobs and handrails used by millions. And while germ-spreading is a mere inconvenience for your average healthy blogger, it's a potentially deadly problem for heathcare environments.
Recognizing this, and reasoning that a fair amount of their fixtures are going into medical facilities, fixtures manufacturer Häfele has addressed the problem by developing Alasept, an antibacterial and antiviral coating that they can use to coat stainless steel fittings. Doorknobs, window handles and furniture components can be treated with Alasept, which not only prevents the adhesion of the germs, but actively kills off what bugs do stick to the material.
A bioengineer at Stanford has been busy at work creating an alternative to the expensive microscopes used to diagnose blood-borne sicknesses like Malaria. What Manu Prakash came up with isn't just a microscope—it's a mini tool made of laser-cut cardstock parts and a lens that's destined for mass-produced design stardom. According to Stanford's release on the invention, the origami-based microscope can be thrown off a building, stomped on and even submerged in water with no harm done to its functionality, making it perfect for use in harsh climates.
Cardstock, lens and adhesive included, this bookmark-size design comes in at around 50 cents and takes 20 minutes to put together. See what the designer has to say about the creation of Foldscope and its open-source potential:
You may remember The Agency of Design from our story on designing with energy, as told by the group's co-founder Richard Gilbert. Just as the Agency's design for a sustainably efficient lamp was focused on hard data—in lieu of the fluffy eco-friendly promises and features we too often see today— their recent project, PullClean, is largely based on research and observation. By investigating the daily movements of hospital employees, the Agency of Design came up with a door-handle-turned-sanitizer that makes it as convenient as possible for hospital employees to keep their hands clean by using one of the most used surfaces to do so.
As stated in their product video, hospital acquired infections kill around 100,000 people in the U.S. every year. As we know from Rachel Lehrer's two-part case study on the topic, sanitizing in a hospital environment is a real problem for employees—and when they're attending to already sick or injured patients, the germ-spreading quotient multiplies.
Thanks to this little guy, scientists are finding more efficient ways to stitch people up
Design's role in medical discoveries is always an exciting topic of conversation, from design experiments like Jake Evill's 3D-printed cast to DIY solutions like the $15 iPhone hack with the potential to improve 600 million lives. Like the latter, this story begins with the efforts of a group of medical scientists. Through researching various animals that have evolved and mastered the art of staying upright in sticky surfaces (think slugs and flies), they were looking for a more effective medical adhesive that wouldn't have the same destructive qualities as traditional sutures.
Of course, we're used to seeing sutures (stitches, in non-technical parlance) in a more traditional, semi-gory Hollywood context—ripping in and out of skin with cringe-worthy zeal—but when you think about it, that can't be the best option for more delicate fix-ups involving, say, any of our internal organs. Now, a group of scientists have come up with a medical-grade adhesive design straight from nature, inspired by the viscous secretion from the Sandcastle Worm.
One of the most devastating experiences of diseases that affect motor abilities is the lack of control over one's body. As designers, from graphic to industrial, we rely on our bodies everyday for fine movements like typing a keyboard and gestural motions like moving a mouse or tapping and swiping. So much of design is about streamlining these experiences, but what's always interested me is how design can also streamline user experiences for those suffering from a physical disability.
I recently learned about Lift Labs, a company that's developed Liftware, a spoon designed for individuals with Parkinson's Disease and the lesser known condition, essential tremor. Both of these can cause severe shaking in one's body, including the hands. This compounds the difficulty of everyday tasks, like eating and brushing one's teeth.
The spoon operates on a rechargeable battery that their web site says will last for a few days, and it detects the tremors in your hand, canceling out each movement to create a more steady eating experience. It doesn't cover all conditions—a simple test you can print out can help you determine if the product will be helpful for you—but the videos are incredible to watch. What once might have been a distracting or disempowering situation is instead made more manageable with the Liftware design.
Of all the branches of industrial design that one could pursue, the design of medical devices is arguably the most important to society—and the least sexy-sounding. Automotive design probably wins the Most Sexy title, at least in the eyes of your average starry-eyed design student, so it's ironic that medical design gets short shrift, in that the price points of the finished products can easily keep pace with automobiles. A high-end endoscope, for example, doesn't sound like much more than a glorified camera—but they can set a hospital back some 70 grand.
That means endoscopes are developed-nation-only devices, despite their universally lifesaving potential. But a company called Evotech, which is dedicated to "[designing] medical devices for the bottom of the pyramid," wants to change that. In partnership with IDEO.org, they won Gold in the Social Impact Design category of the 2013 IDEA program for their low-cost endoscope. "Using frugal innovation techniques," Evotech writes, "we developed a light, portable endoscopy prototype for a fraction of the price of existing solutions."
Evotech and [IDEO.org] redesigned the Low-Cost Portable Endoscope with off-the-shelf parts as a $250-$2,500 device powered by a laptop, making the endoscope smaller, portable, energy efficient, durable, waterproof and with the ability to manufacture at scale.
The challenge was to improve the device's industrial design and develop a business model that would sustain it—and get the device to doctors whose patients would benefit from its use. With regard to the device's design, the endoscope needed to enable doctors to make more precise diagnoses and to perform surgeries through a small incision, reducing patients' risk of infection and recovery time. The endoscope also had to have the ability to be sterilized.
Just about everyone has that really gruesome childhood story of the first time you broke a bone and went through the lengthy process of getting a cast. If you happen to grow up to be in the best professional field ever (i.e. design), you likely also have stories of fantastical apparatuses with which to get at that itch underneath the layers of plaster or ingenious ways to keep the cast dry at a pool party.
It's really no secret that designing for medical products is one of the fastest moving and innovative subsets of the product design game. Designing objects for better administering or healthcare, implementing new technology and identifying opportunities for innovation is serious business. So how did it take this long to merge with out favorite manufacturing technique of the latter, 3D printing? Whatever the reason, the recent work of Victoria University of Wellington graduate Jake Evill is certainly notable for merging digital fabrication and one of the most uncomfortable medical devices.
Achieving what will be the epitome of a Nervous System-meets-Spiderman aesthetic, the Cortex 3D-printed concept cast boasts some really nice features that put its traditional (and itchy) plaster counterpart to shame. The lightweight polyamide cast both allowing you to shower and recycle the parts when healing is complete. Paired with 3D scanning technology, the design and support structure could easily be tweaked to provide extra support to fractured areas of the arm.
I think most of us grow up with the assumption that one or both of our parents are entirely qualified to administer first aid, or at least enough to tend to our 'boo-boos,' and 'ouchies' as we learn the laws of physics the hard way. While I certainly hope that mom and pop have a basic knowledge of how to clean and dress a wound, there comes a point where one must learn to do so by him or herself. And even if one knows what and how he or she needs to do in order to treat a cut or scrape, there's also the matter of actually tearing packaging and unscrewing caps, which can get messy if the wound is on one's hand, as is often the case in, say, the kitchen. Enter Gabriele Meldaikyte's redesigned Home First Aid Kit.
The design of the traditional first aid kit fails to address how they function in real life and are frequently used by someone who has no medical training. I have created this first aid kit framework that can be expanded according to personal requirements. It could be used in the domestic environment or as an educational tool for nurseries, schools etc.
Burns, minor scratches and deep cuts to the hands are common injuries in the kitchen, which occur while cooking and preparing food. The first aid kit has been created for use with one hand only, so that a hand injury can be independently and efficiently treated, even if the accident occurred whilst you were alone.
Where the recent RCA grad's previously-seen "Multi-Touch Gestures" was a conceptual take on screen-based interaction design, the "Home First Aid Kit" is a rather more practical project—equally considered to be sure, but decidedly more pragmatic in terms of real-world applications.
My design divides the first aid kit according to particular injuries: Burns/scalds are marked in yellow colour, minor cuts/scratches are in orange and bleeding/deep cuts are red. Every injury is described in steps, guiding the casualty through the treatment process. I have provided special tools to enable this one-handed treatment. These include a bandage applicator, where bandage can be applied much faster and can be cut off with integrated blades (replacing scissors). A plaster and dressing applicator that works like a stamp: where you tear off the top protection layer and then you stamp it on the cut, with the remaining layer working as a protection for the next plaster etc.
This past spring semester, Western Washington University's Industrial Design department teamed up with Anvil Studios, who were proud to sponsor a Senior I.D. studio, led by professor Dell King, focused on the intersection of health and mobile technology. We're pleased to present the results, courtesy of WWU ID and Anvil Studios.
Design Brief Overview for Medical/Biometric Device and/or System:
Personal health monitoring and tracking with body worn sensors is becoming a big business. Several companies are addressing a variety of focused health monitoring systems from simple pedometers and calorie counters to fatigue sensors and full biometric activity tracking.
Semi-obscure pop culture reference: surely some of you "Futurama" fans remember Professor Farnsworth's fanciful Fing-Longer, which is essentially a prosthetic extension of one's index finger. At the end of the episode, we learn that the plot is itself a recursive loop of hypothetical situations, in which the professor was merely speculating as to what would have happened if he invented the Fing-Longer.
I'm sure that everyone can understand the appeal of having longer phalanges (the sheer brilliance of Farnsworth's invention is beyond the scope of this article), but few of us know what it's like to lose a finger. Sure, I've broken or otherwise injured all of my digits at some point, but my hand has only been out of commission temporarily, for no more than a week or so at a time. It's frustrating enough to be handicapped for a week but I can't imagine not being able to fix my bike, cook or clean, or tie my shoes, etc., without an ad hoc workaround for the rest of my life.
Colin Macduff of Olympia, Washington, lost most his right middle finger in an explosives accident in 2010 and decided to do something about it. Where Professor Farnsworth's source of inspiration begged the question (he got the idea for the Fing-Longer from his future self), Macduff, an experienced welder/fabricator, realized he could fabricate a simple biomechanical finger out of spare bicycle parts:
Most of us are losing our hearing for some reason or another, either to poorly distributed sound from cheap earbuds or old age. Millennials seem to be destined to be shouting to hear each other in just a few short decades (if they aren't already). While most of us are interested in noise cancelling headwear for the airplane or subway, advancements in customized audio tech could improve a number of different markets from field equipment for military personnel to custom headphones.
Born out of the labs at MIT, Lantos Technologies formed in 2009 and developed a way to 3D map the ear canal. We've seen a lot of 3D scanning equipment recently, but in contrast to projects like the Photon that are fuzzy on the actual application, the ability to visualize the ear canal is an innovation likely to be a huge leap not only for audiologists, but designers of audio gear and medical equipment alike. Likewise, we owe a nod of appreciation to Boston Device Development for a nicely executed form and geometry for the handheld instrument .
The world's first Intra-Aural 3D scan system uses the "intensity measurement of two different wavelength bands of fluorescent light as they travel through an absorbing medium, capturing images and stictching them together with elegant algorithms, the system generates a highly accurate 3D map."
Essentially, the hand-held device has a probe that goes into the ear canal, fills with a liquid and then takes a series of photos that are combined to create the 3D model—all in less than 60 seconds. The ear scan raises a few thoughts: first, its sort of ugly in there, second, this could be huge for customized audio equipment. You also have to wonder, if modeling the interior of the ear canal is now possible, advancements in 3D mapping must have a myriad of other medical applications. Lantos recently received its clearance from the FDA to market the scanning system later this year in the United States.
Despite ubiquitous assurances that "There's an app for that," one thing not included in the "that" is the detection of soil-transmitted helminths in human beings. (Helminths are the scientific name for hookworms and their nasty little friends.) Hookworm is a particular problem in developing nations without access to proper medical screening facilities, and Dr. Isaac Bogoch, a Canadian internal medicine specialist, figured out a clever way to tackle that with an extraordinarily simple smartphone hack.
We transformed a mobile phone into a microscope by temporarily mounting a 3-mm ball lens (Edmund Optics, Barrington, NJ) to the camera of an iPhone 4S (Apple, Cupertino, CA) with double-sided tape (3M, St. Paul, MN)... A small hole was punctured in the middle of the double-sided tape, and the ball lens was positioned in this hole. The ball lens was then centered over the iPhone camera lens, with the tape holding the lens to the camera for stability.
Kato-Katz thick smear slides were directly placed up against the double-sided tape, such that a small space less than 1 mm separated the lens from the slide (Figure 1). The mobile phone microscope was placed on top of a slide, which was illuminated from below by a generic, small, handheld incandescent flashlight powered by one AA battery. Images were viewed on the mobile phone screen, and magnification was increased with the digital zoom function; we estimate that this method could achieve an equivalent of 50-60 u magnification. The microscopist manually manipulated the slide underneath the mobile phone microscope to examine the entire area of stool on the slide.
Dr. Bogoch then tested his hacked iPhone on samples taken from schoolchildren in Tanzania and achieved a detection rate accurate to 69.4%—not good enough to eradicate the problem, but certainly a promising start. Dr. Bogoch's research paper in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene [PDF] estimates the hack can be "easily assembled in less than 5 minutes at a cost of approximately US $15."
We know you're thinking "Doc, that is awesome—but you pressed your phone up against human poo?" Of course he didn't, the man is a doctor!
The thick double-sided tape (3M) that held the ball lens to the mobile phone provided a 1-mm buffer zone between the slide and ball lens. In addition, the cellophane strip placed over stool on the slide prevented the ball lens from becoming contaminated with stool.
Understandably, Apple, 3M, and lens manufacturer Edmunds Optics would probably be squeamish about running a commercial advertising Dr. Bogoch's accomplishment. But the health implications for this hack are not to be underestimated. Hookworms reportedly infect more than 600 million people around the globe.
If you've been searching for a socially important Kickstarter project, I'd say you reach out to Dr. Bogoch and get down to business.
Since its inception in 2008, the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation has become the poster child for internal innovation practices. The Center for Innovation focuses on engaging all of the stakeholders in the healthcare system, from doctors to patients to staff, and introducing the design process as a means of taking healthcare to the next level. We had the chance to sit down with the Center for Innovation's Gerry Greaney and Molly McMahon to talk about how design is reshaping healthcare.
Core77: What is the Center for Innovation?
Gerry Greaney: We're a very interesting and diverse group with backgrounds in design, healthcare, finance, budget management, IT, and we're taking the design thinking and design research approach to try to transform the delivery experience of healthcare.
Have you seen the Center transform, along with the culture and behaviors at the Clinic?
Molly McMahon: Definitely. When we first started, we moved out of this kind of raw space in the back area that wasn't finished and that was also right inside the patient clinic hallway. Our team was split—we didn't have a dedicated space for ourselves. Then last March, we moved into to this new, open space with everyone on the same floor. Space is a [scarce] commodity and really valued at Mayo. If you're given more space, then you're worth something. It shows that the Clinic has made an investment in us as well as through the work that we've been doing.
GG: I think what's happened over the past couple of years is that more and more groups throughout Mayo have engaged with the Center and as they've done that, they've started to really understand what the value is. When you bring something like a design approach into a medical institution, it's very different than the scientific, analytical lab approach that's prominent there. It's hard to understand initially what the value of this is—until you experience it. And then once you go through that, you can see the benefit. And when that happens, more people talk about it. It's about getting a foothold.
What kinds of attitudes have you seen? When you say, "I do design and innovation," do people balk at that?
MM: I would say it's more of a slight confusion or an 'Explain more,' because as soon as you say the word 'design,' from their perspective, they're looking at it as, "Are you designing the curtains in the room or the bed? What are you trying to design around or change?" From that, I think it's more of a confusion around the term 'service design' and how it fits into how what they're doing and what we're going to provide to their services.
GG: I think there are times when people may wonder why we're needed and we have to show why we are. Maybe we go a little further to do that and to really capture the stories people tell and things we're told by patients and then translate it into something that applies to the work that needs to be done.
So why is the Center for Innovation needed?
GG: I think it's because there's only so much you can do to address the change that needs to happen in healthcare with the approaches that have been tried already. So there are certain things that you can identify through equality efforts, things that have made huge progress in improving efficiency. But there are certain things that you don't see when you look at things that way. By looking very carefully through a patient experience and trying to understand the greater context of health for patients, you start to see some opportunities that you might not see if we were only focused on purely the medical side of things, purely the care aspect.
Travel a lot? Keep weird hours? Sleep is a common problem for designers, especially those with tight deadlines and an international client base. Every designer I know has their own secret remedy for managing sleep schedules and jet lag, whether that be diets or types of music or forms of exercise.
Enter the Retimer. A special set of glasses (that can fit over regular glasses), the Retimer beams light into your eyes to help you adjust your body clock. With a simple jet lag calculator, a frequent traveller can develop a simple schedule for wearing the glasses to help him or her adjust swiftly. Other possible uses? Night workers, insomniacs and those suffering from seasonal affective disorder can all stand to benefit.
But if glasses can be effective, why not just turn on the lights? When I travel, I use the lights in my room and work studio to help me adjust quickly. When it's bright out, I use an eye mask to manage my eyes' exposure to light. This is useful because light can creep in through windows and cracks in the door. But darkness? Not as much.
The worst thing I ever saw on YouTube was a guy accidentally taking his thumb off with a tablesaw. I used to drive an ambulance and I saw some pretty horrific things, but it is that video that still sometimes gives me trouble sleeping.
Now I've finally come across some videos that make up for the aforementioned one. Here's the background: Richard Van As, a woodworker from South Africa, lost his fingers in a woodworking accident.
Instead of giving up hope and resigning himself to never having fingers again, he went in search of someone that might be willing to help him replace them. After finding himself faced with having to come up with $10,000 per finger for commercially available prosthetics—he decided to search for someone that could help make a set of his own.
He found a Washington-State-based propmaker named Ivan Owen, who created a mechanical device Van As could use to manipulate fine items. Here's a video of Richard testing the device:
If you feel ill, there's a few things you can do: Put a hand on your forehead to see if it's hot, try to decide if you just ate a bad piece of codfish, maybe stick a thermometer in your mouth. In our homes that's about it, and the thermometer—which was invented in the 19th century—is probably the most recent consumer product design we have to monitor our own health. And that's absurd, particularly when we're all carrying supercomputers in our pocket for making Facebook updates and the like.
A company called Scanadu aims to rectify this, by providing health-monitoring products that link to your smartphone. The company launched just over a year ago, and just this morning specific descriptions (though not a lot of images) of their three products have been revealed:
Scanadu SCOUT is a small, speedy and affordable device that puts vital health information at your fingertips. Simply hold Scanadu SCOUT to the temple, and in less than ten seconds it will accurately read more than five vital signs. Data collected by the Scanadu SCOUT is uploaded to the Scanadu smartphone app via Bluetooth to show:
"Scanadu SCOUT lets users explore the diagnostic abilities of a clinic and conveniently puts them in your smartphone for less than $150," said [company founder Walter] de Brouwer. "It's like having a doctor in your pocket."
Project ScanaFlo is a low-cost tool that uses the smartphone as a urine analysis reader. Designed to be sold over-the-counter as a disposable cartridge, Project ScanaFlo will test for pregnancy complications, preeclampisa, gestational diabetes, kidney failure and urinary tract infections. For pregnant women, Project ScanaFlo will be the first to provide a healthfeed throughout the duration of a pregnancy.
Project ScanaFlu is a low-cost tool that uses the smartphone as a reader to assess cold-like symptoms quickly, removing the guess work from early diagnosis of upper respiratory infections. By testing saliva, the disposable cartridge will provide early detection for Strep A, Influenza A, Influenza B, Adenovirus and RSV.
Here's what the devices promise:
Looks pretty awesome, no? But we'll have a while yet to wait; Scanadu says all three will be ready by the end of 2013.
In New York City at least, UPS guys are like firemen: they're always young and in good shape. I wonder if we never see old UPS delivery guys because they get promoted to desk jobs, or because their backs eventually give out from the constant schlepping of heavy packages.
A Fargo, North Dakota-based company called Ergologistics has developed an electric handtruck designed to alleviate all of that bending and hoisting. Despite the lame name (it's called the Lift'n Buddy), it recently won a 2012 Edison Award, taking top prize, Gold, in the Tools category of the Industrial Design entries. Check out what it does in the video below. (Two warnings: 1) Turn your sound down, annoying soundtrack ahead, and 2) you don't have to sit through the whole 4:38, the first 90 seconds will give you the gist.)
The fully made-in-the-U.S.A. device is targeted at warehouses, distribution centers, supermarkets, manufacturing facilities and, of course, deliverypersons. Show the YouTube to your local UPS guy next time he shows up at the office, and he'll be wishing someone would deliver one to his door.
Ergologistics will be featuring the Lift'N Buddy at next month's 18th Annual National Ergonomics Conference and Exposition in Vegas. They also run a blog dedicated to workplace safety that you can check out here.
Last month's post on "How a Woman with No Arms Dresses Herself" did not get the amount of responses I was hoping for, but I still feel designers can make an important contribution towards easing the challenges that handicapped folk face. Daily activities that you and I never even think about, like getting in and out of a car, are problems for the handicapped that need evolutionary design solutions. And from what I'm seeing, there aren't enough interested designers tackling these problems in user-friendly ways.
Let's look at how people without the use of their legs get in and out of their cars, and bear in mind that they have to get both their bodies and their wheelchairs in and out. First up is Chelsea Zimmerman, who runs a blog called Reflections of a Paralytic. Note the little things, like how far she has to stretch to close the door: