Google spoon offers steady hand for Parkinson’s sufferers

Google has launched a spoon to allow people with tremors and Parkinson’s disease to eat without spilling.

Using hundreds of algorithms, the technology senses how a hand is shaking and makes instant adjustments to stay balanced. In clinical trials, the Liftware spoons reduced shaking of the spoon bowl by an average of 76%.

“We want to help people in their daily lives today and hopefully increase understanding of disease in the long run,” Google spokeswoman Katelin Jabbari said. Other adaptive devices have been developed to help people with tremors — rocker knives, weighted utensils, pen grips. But until now experts say technology has not been used in this way.

The spoons are on the market for $295 (€236).

“It’s totally novel,” said UC San Francisco Medical Centre neurologist Dr Jill Ostrem, who specialises in movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease and tremors.

“I have some patients who couldn’t eat independently, they had to be fed, and now they can eat on their own. It doesn’t cure the disease — they still have tremor — but it’s a very positive change.”

Google got into the no-shake utensil business in September, acquiring a small, National Institutes of Health-funded startup called Lift Labs for an undisclosed sum.

More than 10 million people worldwide, including Google co-founder Sergey Brin’s mother, have tremors or Parkinson’s disease. Brin has said he also has a mutation associated with higher rates of Parkinson’s and has donated more than €40m ($50m) to research for a cure. But the Lift Labs acquisition was not related, Jabbari said.

Lift Lab founder Anupam Pathak said moving from a small, four-person startup to the vast Google campus has freed him up to be more creative as he explores how to apply the technology even more broadly.

His team works at the search giant’s division called Google X Life Sciences, which is also developing a smart contact lens that measures glucose levels in tears for diabetics.


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