Reading the literature, most research on tremors deals with finding ways to stop it with medication, exercise routines, and other therapies. The work at Lift Labs Design, however, takes a different approach: how to deal with the tremor.
Specifically, they hope to eliminate the problem of spilling food that occurs with tremor— whch can make eating burdensome and frustrating—with the release of their stabilizing spoon, called Liftware.
The process essentially works like this: the patient picks up the spoon and the sensors in the handle detect any debilitating levels of hand tremor. As the patient motions the spoon toward their mouth, Liftware responds to the tremor and steadies what the patient is holding. This allows delivery of food without or with fewer drops, shifting attention away from spilling and onto the joy of eating with company without embarrassment.
A study on the efficacy of Active Cancellation of Tremor (ACT) technology was published in December 2013 in Movement Disorders and “found that the Liftware device was indeed capable of stabilizing motion of essential tremor patients,” according to Anupam Pathak, Founder and CEO of Lift Labs Design. “We found that on average the device was able to cancel over 70-75 percent on average for eating and transferring tasks. In its final form, Liftware presents a non-invasive solution for people who are struggling with eating due to their tremor.”
Indeed, another study published in Movement Disorders this month explored whether a noninvasive handheld device using ACT technology could stabilize tremor-induced motion of a spoon in individuals with essential tremor. Fifteen essential tremor (ET) subjects performed three tasks with the ACT device turned on and off. Tremor severity was rated with the Fahn-Tolosa- Marin Tremor Rating Scale (TRS) and subjective improvement was rated by subjects with the Clinical Global Impression Scale (CGI-S). Further, tremor amplitude was measured using device-embedded accelerometers in 11 subjects.
The researchers found TRS scores improved with ACT on (versus off) in all three tasks: holding, eating, and transferring. CGI-S improved with eating and transferring, but not the holding task. They also found accelerometer measurements demonstrated 71 percent to 76 percent reduction in tremor with the ACT device on, leading them to conclude the “handheld ACT device can reduce tremor amplitude and severity for eating and transferring tasks in individuals with ET.”
TECHNOLOGY AND TESTING
A rechargeable battery powers the spoon—fork, soupspoon, and key holder attachments are in the works—and it can go several days between power-ups. “The device has a little computer and motion sensor (accelerometer and other sensors) inside that can tell the difference from intended to unintended motion,” Mr. Pathak said. “If there is tremor, it will actually move the spoon in the opposite direction of the motion to cancel it out.”
Lift Labs offers a self-test on their web site to help patients determine if they need ACT (priced at $295), which measures the individual’s tremor amplitude, according to Mr. Pathak. “We found in our clinical studies that amplitudes of less than 3cm work the best and encourage people to take the quick test that we have on the website.”
The VA currently covers Liftware for their patients and Lift Labs is now setting up a strategy to determine if they can obtain coverage by other carriers. Mr. Pathak says they are excited about their future: “We are working very hard to help with other aspects of daily living, and are passionate to apply new technologies to improve our future. We are, at our core, technologists and believe we can continue to innovate to provide new solutions to help people’s lives in a meaningful way.”
See the Spoons in Action
To view videos of patients using ACT technology, go to https://www.liftlabsdesign.com/