Clinically, patients of amyotropic lateral sclerosis (ALS) undergo gradual decline of their ability for voluntary control of muscles. This often results in loss of ability to speak, resulting in difficulties for communication with others.
In a new development for patients of ALS, a team of researchers at MIT have designed a stretchy, skin-like tool that can be joined to the face of patients. In doing so, the device can calculate small gestures such as a smile or a twitch. Using the device, patients could express small sentiments such as ‘I am hungry’ with small movements that are interpreted by the device.
Light and thin, Device camouflages with makeup making it invisible
Using the device, patients would be able to communicate in a more natural way, researchers opine. In terms of size and weight, the device is thin, light, and can be camouflaged with makeup to make it unobtrusive. Besides being malleable, disposable, soft, and light the device is also visually invisible. It camouflages well with the skin, not letting know if something is on the skin.
To establish the efficacy of the device, researchers tested the first version of the device in two ALS patients, one each male and female. On attaching the device, it could accurately differentiate three different facial expressions – open mouth, smile, and pursed lips.
The study carried out by a team of researchers at MIT and other academic institutions is published in Nature Biomedical Engineering.
Meanwhile, the lead researcher’s lab specializes in developing conformable electronic devices that can attach to the body for a number of medical applications. In fact, in 2016, meeting Stephen Hawking – the world renowned physicist – at Harvard inspired the researcher to enable patients of neuromuscular disorders communicate.