Taking Aim at Tremor
As a doctoral student, Pathak researched countermeasures for physiological tremor, the normal shake present in everyone’s hands that can intensify with an adrenaline surge, low blood sugar or exhaustion. Physiological tremor can be a big problem in certain situations, such as combat, and Pathak’s work (funded by the U.S. Army Research Laboratories) focused on developing actuators in military equipment and weapons to offset users’ tremors. His research for the Army became the foundation for a different kind of fight: Aware that current methods for combatting essential tremor are limited — medicines are effective only in about 50 percent of cases — Pathak decided to take on movement disorder tremor.
Earlier adaptive technology — robotic arms, weighted silverware, arm braces — focused on restraining the shaking and was often bulky, impractical or ineffective. Liftware uses active cancellation: The spoon offsets the shakes, rather then suppressing them.
We Have the Technology
The basic motion-sensing and stabilizing technology in Liftware was already in use in smartphones and cameras. Pathak says he thought to himself, “Why can’t it be used to meet this need?”