Teaching Morse code via Google Glass passive haptic learning

The Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) has been experimenting with several methods of passive haptic learning (PHL). In this test using Google Glass, they taught subjects Morse code in four hours. The method: having the subjects play a game while feeling vibration taps between their temple and ear that represented the dots and dashes of Morse code. This passively taught them code through their tactile senses, even while they were distracted by the game. The test group received a voice prompt for each corresponding letter, while the control group did not. When tested on the Morse alphabet, the test group was nearly perfect, while the control group was accurate only about half the time. The vibrations were generated in Google Glass through a lower than 15 Hz signal played very slowly and below hearing range through the bone-conduction transducer. “Does this new study mean that people will rush out to learn Morse code? Probably not,” said Georgia Tech professor Thad Starner. “It shows that PHL lowers the barrier to learn text-entry methods — something we need for smartwatches and any text-entry that doesn’t require you to look at your device or keyboard.” Georgia Tech News  Hat tip to former Northern Ireland Editor Toni Bunting

Artificial intelligence with IBM Watson, robotics pondered on 60 Minutes

click to enlargeThis Sunday, the long-running TV magazine show 60 Minutes (CBS) had a long Charlie Rose-led segment on artificial intelligence. It concentrated mainly on the good with a little bit of ugly thrown in. The longest part of it was on IBM Watson massively crunching and applying oncology and genomics to diagnosis. In a study of 1,000 cancer patients reviewed by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s molecular tumor board, while 99 percent of the doctor diagnoses were confirmed by Watson as accurate, Watson found ‘something new’ in 30 percent. As a tool, it is still considered to be in adolescence. Watson and data analytics technology has been a $15 billion investment for IBM, which can afford it, but by licensing it and through various partnerships, IBM has been starting to recoup it. The ‘children of Watson’ are also starting to grow. Over at Carnegie Mellon, robotics is king and Google Glass is reading visual data to give clues on speeding up reaction time. At Imperial College, Maja Pantic is taking the early steps into artificial emotional intelligence with a huge database of facial expressions and interpretations. In Hong Kong, Hanson Robotics is developing humanoid robots, and that may be part of the ‘ugly’ along with the fears that AI may outsmart humans in the not-so-distant future. 60 Minutes video and transcript

Speaking of recouping, IBM Watson Health‘s latest partnership is with Siemens Healthineers to develop population health technology and services to help providers operate in value-based care. Neil Versel at MedCityNews looks at that as well as 60 Minutes. Added bonus: a few chuckles about the rebranded Siemens Healthcare’s Disney-lite rebranding.

It’s Alive! Augmedix’s $17 million raise raises Google Glass in medicine

Just when we thought that Google Glass was going to be a tax writeoff for Alphabet (the Google parent company), along comes Augmedix, a Google Developers/Glass At Work enterprise partner which has raised, without a lot of fanfare, a tidy $17 million in venture capital funding. The round was funded primarily from customers–in this case Sutter Health, Dignity Health, Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), TriHealth Inc. and an anonymous funder, plus traditional VCs Redmile Group, Emergence Capital and DCM Ventures, the last two which were also in the $16 million Series A. Augmedix’s Google Glass is used during the visit by the doctor to connect to a remote scribe who enters patient data into the EHR instead of the doctor. Our Readers familiar with a typical doctor’s office can readily see this as a useful function, though the Glass itself might put off some patients. No word of the dramatic surgery/telesurgery consults this Editor has seen demonstrated. It also appears that Augmedix is the only enterprise developer of Glass that has stayed with medical use, shifting its focus to large healthcare organizations. Mobihealthnews. CrunchBase

Rounding up best medtech in 2015

Medgadget’s 2015 roundup looks at nine innovative and in some cases life-saving medtech systems. These cover ground from diagnostics to robotic exoskeletons, from hearts to eyes and ears. Some are obviously early stage research projects, others are close to market. In eyewear news, a revamped Google Glass made the news with its FCC filing; we look at the Glass reboot and rival facial tech.

  • Evena Eyes-On ultrasound/infrared goggles that let the wearer visualize the peripheral and deeper vasculature for venipuncture procedures.
    • click to enlargeAnd speaking of eyewear, Google Glass 2.0 made the end-of-year news with its leaked FCC filing detailing its changes in design, including a bigger screen, hardier build, improved camera and longer battery life. It also confirmed earlier rumors that Glass’ market was now medical and enterprise. Guardian, WSJ (video)
    • Other smart glasses from Vital Enterprises, Augmedix, Pristine.io, Aira.io and a beefed up Google Glass from ThirdEye for the ER recapped in MedCityNews.
  • A brain stent with pressure activated nanoparticles to break up vessel occlusions in the brain that cause ischemic strokes, developed by Harvard’s Wyss Institute and University of Massachusetts’ New England Center for Stroke Research.
  • A combination of EKSO Bionic‘s exoskeleton with UCLA‘s non-invasive spinal cord stimulation from NeuroRecovery Technologies which enabled paralyzed men to move their legs.
  • The XStat Rapid Hemostasis System, developed for the US military, now released for civilian use, which uses small sponges to stop bleeding.
  • Three pacemakers–one fetal, another powered by light and a third from EBR Systems’ WiSE technology that stimulates both sides of the heart
  • The PolyPhotonix Noctura 400 sleep mask for treating diabetic retinopathy
  • A two-part laser-based hearing aid from EarLens where one section is placed on the eardrum

Google granted patent for sensor contact lens

click to enlargeOn Tuesday, Google was granted a patent for its contact lens with sensors and embedded microchip. According to Time, the patent award was uncovered by WebProNews, which seems to be focused more on the problems of Google Glass than the patent, though the abstract and a development figure is included. The patent was originally filed in September 2012. We’ve previously noted that Google is partnering with Novartis/Alcon (their eyecare division) to further develop applications. The most prominent is glucose level detection for diabetics, but there is also a huge market in correcting presbyopia and autofocusing ‘zoom’ lenses [TTA 17 July 14] Of course, Google does not admit to any of this, telling a Time reporter that “We hold patents on a variety of ideas—some of those ideas later mature into real products or services, some don’t. Prospective product announcements should not necessarily be inferred from our patents.” So we should keep blinking.

The demise of Google Glass

Well we predicted only a few days ago that there would be some major wearable casualties this year, little realising that the first was about to hit us: Google’s decision to stop selling Glass “in present form”.

Donning this editor’s retrospectacles, the campaign to embed Glass into the world’s technology infrastructure has always felt a bit forced: much more supplier push than customer pull, with wearers, except in circumstances like surgical operations, given a wide berth by many non-wearers. It was pricey too.

Clearly though, the ability to record video and to access information in hands-free mode will continue to be an important requirement for many health & care workers, and social attitudes will likely change too, so there can be little doubt that perhaps a less obviously intrusive version will return in due course. (more…)

Faux Glass: not just a knockoff, but a sendup

click to enlargeNeed to impress your Silicon Valley/Alley buds, but the exchequer is low? Didn’t get to be a Glass Explorer on the first round? Fret no more! Faux Glass is here. It’s missing a few things that Glass has–like a phone, photo/video camera, a GPS, internet search access smack in your eye–but does have a magnifier, a spotlight and eight LED indicator lights which light in sequence to a “crack me up” command, like Where the Faux (the product’s built in GPS to nowhere), Faux-to Shop (for fixing photos never taken), and What the Faux (for general searching). All on Indiegogo for $1,480 less than Glass! “They’re not fake anything; they’re real Faux” says Faux-In-Chief Robin Raskin (who’s also a tech journalist, author and founder of Living in Digital Times and FashionWare). The full court press on Faux Glass is of course leading up to International CES in January and their conferences including the Digital Health Summit. Ms Raskin through this also reminds us that crowdfunding and digital tech is not to be taken too seriously. PRWeb release. Website.

Of course there’s the possible faux that presents itself as seriously real, or what’s been dubbed ‘scampaigns’ on crowdfunding sites like…Indiegogo. (more…)

Assisted Vision: sight enhancement for the partially sighted

Dr Stephen Hicks is a Research Fellow in neuroscience and visual prosthetics at the University of Oxford. He and his team are working on a project to develop a pair of glasses to help partially click to enlargesighted people “see” what is in front of them.

BBC’s Johny Cassidy spoke to Hicks recently about the Oxford smart specs project for BBC’s In Touch programme. The project uses Augmented Reality (AR) to make objects in the field of vision sharper for partially sighted people. Hicks says the object is to “try to make a pair of glasses which look relatively normal to people in the environment and still provides a computer based object enhancement and object detection that would be able to be seen by people with very, very limited sight”.

The glasses use two cameras, a gyroscope, a compass and a GPS unit. The “lenses” are made of transparent OLED displays enabling the wearer to see through with any available sight and also allowing others to see the user’s eyes.

“The next step in terms of commercial development is to reduce the size of the glasses and the processing unit into something acceptable to people in day to day life”, says Hicks. The “take-home” versions are targeted to be built in autumn this year.

How much is it likely to cost? A stated goal of the project is to keep the costs down so that the maximum number of people as possible will have access to these glasses. So where possible off-the-shelf components are being used. Hicks says that a pair of glasses for less than £300 is possible compared to just under US$10,000 for the only other one that Johny Cassidy had been able to find. Google Glass, Epson Moverio and similar glasses are, of course, not functionally comparable.

Eye feels the pain of Google’s Brin and Page

click to enlarge Oh, the discomfort that Sergey and Larry must be feeling being grilled interviewed by “billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla” (grudgingly respected in TTA 30 May) at one of his eponymous Summits. Here they are with Google Glass in all sorts of adaptations from Parkinson’s to gait improvement to surgery [see multiple TTA articles here], a ‘moonshot on aging and longevity’ dubbed Calico [TTA 19 Sept 13] and even a contact lens to measure blood glucose in tears [TTA 17 Jan]. All good stuff with Big Change potential. Instead they whinge on about how the health field is so regulated, and all the cool stuff you could do with the data but for that privacy thingy (those darn EU, UK regulations and in US, HIPAA). Page to Khosla: “I do worry that we regulate ourselves out of some really great possibilities that are certainly on the data-mining end.” Brin to Khosla: “Generally, health is just so heavily regulated. It’s just a painful business to be in. It’s just not necessarily how I want to spend my time.” Gee. Whiz. What is apparent here is a lack of personal respect for us ‘little folks’ privacy and our everyday, humdrum lives.

Advice straight from The Gimlet Eye: My dear boys, you’ll just have to get people’s data with that old-fashioned thing, permission. (And you’d be surprised that many would be happy to give it to you.) Or if it’s all too painful, Sergey can play with his superyacht, latest girlfriend and follow his estranged wife Anne Wojcicki’s 23andme‘s ongoing dealings with the FDA. At least she’s in the arena. Google leaders think health is ‘a painful business to be in’ (SFGate) Mobihealthnews covers their true confessions, with an interesting veer off in the final third of the article to Mr Khosla’s view of Ginger.io’s surprising pilot with Kaiser and then to WellDoc’s Bluestar diabetes therapy app–the only one that is 510(k)Class II and registered as a pharmaceutical product [TTA 10 Jan].  Also interesting re the Googlers’ mindset is a SFGate blog piece on Larry Page’s attitudes towards leisure and work in a Keynes-redux ‘vision of the future‘. < work + > people may= >leisure, but certainly<<<$£€¥ for even the well-educated and managerial!

Is consumer digital device engagement sticky? Or just the hype?

A wonderfully cranky essay by Laurie Orlov on her new blog Boomer Health Tech Watch might make you think The Gimlet Eye was her guest writer (see below). Ms Orlov observes the ratched-up noise level around wearables, fitness bands, smartwatches (in which your Editor will be drenched quadrophonically next Wednesday at CEWeek NYC, glutton for punishment as she is). Yes, we’re swooning around Apple Health [TTA 3 June] and having a minor swivet around Samsung’s Simband and SAMI [TTA 2 June]. The bucket of cold water in Ms Orlov’s grip is the high dropout rate among fitness band users (33-50 percent, cited from Endeavour Partners and NPD Group); this Editor will also add the devices’ relative inaccuracy, fragility and glitches [TTA 10 May]. But ‘the investor community (via the media) clearly IS being transformed, at least temporarily’ as well as outside the health industry, by a belief that these devices will push the world into Quantified Selfing for the Masses. Will wearables herald our arrival at the New Jerusalem of Health? Certainly it’s been trumpeted and tromboned by the D3H (Digital Health Hypester Horde) badly needing a fresh fave rave. But can digital health survive another Hype Curve dive? Can weThe Consumerization of Health Care — is it working?

Further in this jugular vein, Business Investor, in a superficial swipe, dubs smartwatches uncool just because they trail fitness bands by six points. They did a better job in March delving into the real challenges that wearables face: smartwatches look and feel like a brick on your wrist (Ed. D’s term), Google Glass is socially unacceptable in many quarters (banned in Silicon Valley!) and wearables are still in Early Adopter-Ville.

Update: Ms Orlov just sent to this Editor a brief comment with a link to a thoughtful NY Times article not only on The Trouble with Apple’s Health App, but also how the barriers are more subtle–and more common-sensical–than the hype around how consumers are eager to register every burp on a PHR (they’re not), they don’t want to be nagged by technology (easier than your mom to be rid of) and the group that needs it most (the old, poor) has the least, for now, access to it. But largely ignored by the D3H.

click to enlargeOn assignment off Cape May, New Jersey inventorying readiness of coastal defense fortifications. Just between us. Shhhh!

Enterprise wearables for clinical health–and more

click to enlargeThis ZDNet story technically has only one wearable in health–the Evena Medical Eyes-On Glasses which help medical staff find that vein (left) and is being trialled at Stanford University Medical Center. The other four profiled are being used in businesses as wide-ranging as engineering, restaurants, retail stores and manufacturing, but they are being used in the ‘here and now’: Abeseilon work-stream video; Google Glass for reviewing/recording work, training and coaching; the Theatro Wearable Computer ‘targeted’ messager; and, somewhat Big Brother-ish,  the Hitachi Business Microscope, an RFID-like device the size of an ID card that captures employee interactions and collaborations. A savvy HIT developer or implementer could, as has been done with Glass, find different uses for the other three in hospitals, home care or practices.

And you’ll be surprised what made TechRepublic’s list of wearables’ 10 biggest flops. (Already!)

The ‘grey’ market is where it’s at for ‘quantified selfing’

Surprisingly in the tech-addicted (and young-skewing, based on subject matter) Gigaom is this short piece on how health tech companies are missing the boat by targeting the young, healthy fitness addict or plain addicted-to-the-data Quantified Self (QS) market, rather than those over 50 and their families. ‘Simple’ and unobtrusive are the keywords, especially for what the late and much missed MetLife Mature Market Institute termed the ‘old-old’–those over 80. Mentioned are home activity monitoring systems such as Lively, BeClose and GrandCare Systems supplanting the PERS pendant (Lifeline) and the additional alert capabilities offered by GreatCall/Jitterbug. (This Editor will also mention a new telecare system entering the European and Americas markets, Essence Care@Home, which premiered at Mobile World Congress 2014. More on this in the next few days.) What’s notable about the article is the emphasis on the market size (via expert Laurie Orlov): $2 billion now, ten times that in 2020. What’s incomplete about the article is no ‘look-ahead’ to how devices like smartwatches (and watch-like forms such as AFrame), sensor-based wearables which connect to smartphones–and sensor-equipped smartphones, tablets and even Glass-type devices with simple apps which can help with self-or group-monitoring, prompts for those with cognitive difficulties, and more. Worldwide, we are also running out of carers [TTA 24 April]. Who will crack the code on tech for seniors?

A focus on Parkinson’s with Google Glass

Some pretty exciting work is happening at Newcastle University’s Digital Interaction Group with researchers evaluating the potential of Google Glass to support people with Parkinson’s. Much of the work is relevant to other conditions that affect movement, including Stroke and Multiple Sclerosis.

The great thing about Google Glass for people with motor control problems such as tremors, is that it gets around the difficulties in trying to negotiate the touch screen of a phone, or when trying to press a panic button. This is because the technology can be voice-operated and links to the internet. So in an emergency you can just tell it to call someone and it will. (more…)

Two new health applications for Google Glass

Beyond the surgical suite [TTA 24 Sept, 16 Nov], developers keep building platforms that enable telemedicine consults with Google Glass. An exciting one is Beam, developed by Remedy, which allows clinicians to securely share images, text, video and location through Glass. The consult can either be live streamed (synchronous) or store-and-forward (asynchronous) through Beam’s ‘expert interface’. Harvard and The University of Pennsylvania started pilots of Beam in March. The intriguing background is that one of the co-founders, Noor Siddiqui, is but 19–albeit one who has a Thiel Fellowship which gives young entrepreneurs the $100,000 opportunity to skip college and work on their project. Fast Company/Co.Exist, MedCityNews, press release via Telepresence Options. A bit more ‘out there’ is Personal Neuro Devices’ Introspect PND Wearable, a ‘passive brain monitor’ that based on the pictures, is an add-on to Glass that surrounds the head from back to front, with two sensors that extend between the ears and eyes. Ottawa, Canada-based PND claims it reads brain waves and the app then applies the changes to provide feedback, such as special content to modulate moods (their other business.) Release, PND page with video/pictures, ApplySci

Wearables solving real ‘jobs to be done’

click to enlargeThis Editor strongly believes that the heart of a great product is that it addresses, in Clayton Christensen’s terms, a ‘job to be done’–or as pre-social media marketing writing put it, ‘not a ‘nice to have’–a must-have’. Venture Beat, usually a facilitator of the D3H (Digital Health Hypester Horde), has an unusually sober and personal article from writer Christina Farr highlighting five wearable devices and how they could be ‘must-haves’, improving quality of life for significant groups of everyday people.

  1.  The OrCam computer-assisted vision device (above) for those with low vision, which interprets nearby visual inputs, including letters, faces, objects, products, places, bus numbers, and traffic lights–and describes them to the wearer through a bone-conduction device heard by the user only. From Israel and available only in the US at present, the initial pricing is around $2,500.
  2. Physician, surgical and law enforcement decision support may be the best use of Google Glass–not exactly the ‘hipster on the L train’ picture promoted by Google.
  3. Emotiv’s mind-controlled wheelchair, which is controlled by a headset (EPOC) capable of picking up electrical signals.
  4. For autistic children and adults, Neumitra and Affectiva are both bands that measure and alert for physiological stress that may lead to inappropriate wandering or acting-out.
  5. Red-green color blindness affects 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women. It can be dangerous–think of traffic lights and wiring–and EnChroma’s correcting set of glasses is a simple, useful solution. Reportedly there is a 30 percent improvement in color identification and a 70 percent improvement in color discrimination. The pricing is fairly standard at $375-460.

Google Contact Lens for diabetics in development

Breaking news

click to enlargeclick to enlargeIt’s unusual that a smart contact lens that measures blood glucose makes lead worldwide news while it is still in clinical studies, but when it is from Google, The Gimlet Eye wants to be the first to try it.

Google’s blog and a single interview they granted to the Associated Press have confirmed the earlier rumor on a blood glucose-measuring contact that first appeared last Friday [TTA 10 January; item from FierceMedicalDevices in the 4th paragraph, Google’s meeting with FDA on a powered contact lens]. The AP article also confirmed its genesis in University of Washington/NSF research. The Google lens under development might have tiny LED lights that visually advise the wearer on their glucose levels, as well as transmit the information via a wireless chip. Last week’s speculation was on a Google Glass-like display à la iOptik.

Research specifically directed towards continual monitoring of the blood glucose in tears has been ongoing and other companies have developed powered lenses. A key question is the equivalence and accuracy of monitoring tears versus blood. (more…)