Fingertip wearable measures disease-associated grip strength

IBM researchers are studying grip strength, which is associated with the effectiveness of Parkinson’s drugs, cognitive function in schizophrenics, cardiovascular health, and elderly mortality.

To better understand these markers, Steve Heisig, Gaddi Blumrosen and colleagues have developed a prototype wearable that continuously measures how a fingernail bends and moves.

The project began as an attempt to capture the medication state Parkinson’s patients, but was soon expanded to measure the tactile sensing of pressure, temperature, surface textures and other indicators of various diseases. Nail bending was measured throughout the day, and AI was used to analyze the data for disease association.

The system consists of strain gauges attached to the fingernail and a small computer that samples strain values, collects accelerometer data and communicates with a smart watch. The watch runs machine learning models to rate bradykinesia, tremor, and dyskinesia.

The work is also being used in the development of a fingertip-structure modeled device that could  help quadriplegics communicate.

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