‘Project Emma’ tremor-reducing watch unveiled by Microsoft CEO


Author: Almaz OhenePublished: 14 June 2017

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mma Lawton and Haiyan Zhang

The team behind an innovative vibrating wristwatch that helped Emma Lawton – who lives with young-onset Parkinson’s disease – to draw again, introduced the device at a prestigious tech conference

Haiyan Zhang, innovation director at Microsoft Research, and Emma Lawton, a 33-year-old graphic designer who lives with Parkinson’s, unveiled a tremor-reducing wristwatch device at the prestigious Microsoft Build 2017 conference last month.

Emma explained that the prototype wearable has allowed her to “control my own career” again at a time when she feared she might have to give up on her job as a creative director.

Reducing many in the audience to tears, she said: “I was starting to imagine that I’d have to change my career because it’s difficult to be a creative director and yet not explain your designs through sketches, or to be able to practice what you preach.

“When I’m drawing and sketching as part of my job, using the watch means I can do it, so it’s giving me the opportunity to control my own career.”

In their keynote feature video, Haiyan explained how she and her team based their invention on the gyroscope principles used in vibrating cutlery technology. The wearable vibrates in opposition to the uncontrollable tremor, allowing Emma to control the pen with much more accuracy.

Microsoft tweeted pictures of Emma’s handwriting, which showed the differences in legibility when writing with and without the device.

Jenny Lay-Flurries, chief accessibility officer at Microsoft praised its “inclusive design”.

Satya Nandella, CEO of the Microsoft Corporation – who also spoke at the event ­­– showed his appreciation of the “inspiring” project.

Haiyan explained the ideas behind the device: “A metronome can often help people overcome ‘freezing of gait,’ as somehow their brain becomes distracted by the metronome and they’re able to regain control of their legs. Based on this kind of insight maybe there’s a way to hack Emma’s brain into distracting her through some other stimuli.”

Haiyan Zhang Emma Lawton Satya Nandella

Haiyan Zhang and Emma Lawton on stage with Microsoft Corporation CEO Satya Nandella

Haiyan continued: “We’re now working with clinical neuroscientists in London to do more clinical studies. We’re bringing in more people with Parkinson’s to try out this device. We think that this particular vibration pattern works for Emma, but there might be other patterns that we can adapt for different people.

“So we’re developing a broader vision for this technology and thinking about how we might apply this effect to other parts of the body. Right now it really helps with Emma’s writing, but what about other activities that might affect different parts of the body?”

The ‘Project Emma’ team is also thinking about how the wearable could track symptoms over time, to offer people with Parkinson’s insights into their symptoms, and also advise as to when to take medications. The team is planning to begin initial studies on this technology in London in the near future.

Watch a video of Haiyan and Emma explaining ‘Project Emma’ below.

Haiyan Zhang Emma Lawton talk

Lead image credit: blogs.microsoft.com

Read more: Tremor-reducing GyroGlove set to launch in 2017

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  • Cary Mumford

    Can we use this ? Trial see how it does? Please I habpve PD and this would be a great try!

  • Peter Yeo

    My name is Peter. My wife is young & she has PD. Hope she could try this device…thanks

  • LeeAnne Groomes

    I have had life long Essential Tremor and I am wondering if this would help me?

    • J Blakley

      My mother is 79 in great physical condition and swims a lot for exercise. She’s had essential tremors for about 15 years. She would love to help if possible. Tks!!

    • Kathy Mabrey Duncan

      I also have essential tremors. Would be very interested in taking part of any trials going on.

  • Jenefer Lynn

    i have a form of Ataxia, i belive this device would be able to help me aswell! id love to try it.

  • Amy Sanchez

    My son has cerebral palsy and dystonia, would it be useful for that ?

  • Margaret Will

    My husband has PD and would be interested in being involved in a test group if possible.

  • David Navarrette

    I am 62 and diagnosed with PD two years ago. Would like to be involved with your study group

  • Diann Knowles

    Hello, I do not have PD but an essential tremor. I can not write most of the time also I am a artist and can not hold a paint brush steady. There have been times the brush has flown out of my hand. It has effected daily life and depressing. Does this device help? I would like to be in your study and would like to try.

  • Cathy Johnson Holder

    I would be so grateful to be part of the test group as my essential tremors have gotten progressively worse through the years and I am uncomfortable pursuing surgery. Thank you.

  • Marilyn Lloyd-hughes

    My daughter, 38, has dystonia, with hand tremor. This device would be amazing for her

  • Laura Altieri

    I would be grateful if somebody could tell me if there is an ongoing clinical trial about this, please.

  • Ruby

    When will this devise be on the market my husband could really use it

  • Janet Jensen

    I have very bad essential tremor which makes it very difficult to do mundane things like eat with a fork or spoon, write, brush my teeth, pretty much anything that requires me to use my hands. Could the watch help me at all?

  • Teresa

    My mom was a first grade teacher for 32 years. Her handwriting was impeccable. Now she can hardly feed herself. He developed tremors in her right hand and so she learned how to write with her left. Now her tremors in her left hand are becoming bad. I purchased her the liftware to help with her meals. I would love to know how I can get her on a trial or purchase these bracelets….

  • Adam OnWeb

    Please, can anyone tell me where someone could acquire this device?

  • Adam OnWeb

    How do you get this watch?

  • Darren Hands

    My mom has Parkinson’s and has tremors. Would love to know if and when it becomes available or if at all possible be part of the trial.

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