Touch and feeling through a bionic prosthetic arm (DARPA-Univ. Pittsburgh)

[grow_thumb image=”” thumb_width=”200″ /]A robotic arm with a neural interface that allows the user to experience touch has been developed by the University of Pittsburgh and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).  The Revolutionizing Prosthetics program since 2006 has been developing advanced upper-limb prosthetics. Their first was the Gen-3 Arm System by DEKA Integrated Solutions Corporation, submitted for 510(k) in 2012. The subject for the test of the touch interface, Nathan, has been a quadriplegic from the chest down since 2004. He permitted four microelectrode arrays, each about half the size of a shirt button, to be placed in his brain: two in the motor cortex and two in the sensory cortex regions that correspond to feeling in his fingers and palm. Wires run from the arrays to the robotic arm, which has torque sensors that detect when pressure is applied to its fingers. These physical “sensations” are converted into electrical signals back to the arrays in Nathan’s brain so that he has the sensation of feeling and touch.  The sensation of touch in the bionic arm is near 100 percent natural and accurate. This research has great potential both for prosthetics and for other neurological conditions. Armed With Science.  Video

Wearables ‘shocker’: Website beats fitness tracker in weight loss program

The shock waves are reverberating through the wearables industry, but it is likely less than it seems. The JAMA study being cited was testing the hypothesis that technology could assist a weight loss program, and also what type of technology did best. The subject group of 471 at the University of Pittsburgh was young–18-35, prime for a wearable–overweight to moderately obese, and tracked for 24 months between 2010 and 2012 (!) The participants were started on a group weight loss program supported with calls and texts for the first six months, then randomized into two groups that monitored their diet and fitness either through a fitness tracker plus website (enhanced intervention group), or those using a website only (standard intervention). Both groups lost weight but the enhanced/fitness tracker group lost 5.29 pounds less than the website-only group.

The caveats: According to Mobihealthnews, the fitness band used was BodyMedia SenseWear, which was acquired by Jawbone and as they noted, put out of business. Fitness bands now also look and feel different than this early generation. Mobile tracking apps are now the standard versus going online which was necessary four years ago–a huge jump in convenience. But tracking itself may change behavior. The authors speculate that tracking data might actually demotivate people, or that activity ‘congratulations’ may lead to a bit of cheating. But they should try it with up to date trackers. Also Healthcare Dive and Reuters

Google Contact Lens for diabetics in development

Breaking news

[grow_thumb image=”” thumb_width=”130″ /][grow_thumb image=”” thumb_width=”150″ /]It’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…)