More than 10 million people worldwide suffer from Parkinson's disease, and Canadian company Klick Labs has built a technology that offers an insight into what it's like to live with this debilitating condition.
The Sympulse wearable is worn on the arm and captures the tremors of the wearer. It then transmit them in real time to a second device, worn on the forearm of someone else, who can experience the tremors as if they were their own.
The idea was to design something that could foster more empathy for caregivers, so that they might come closer to understanding what it's like to live with involuntary muscle activity. The wearable digitizes the muscle spasm and mirrors it in the second device, using electrical stimulation to make their muscles contract in the same way as the patient.
The video below shows early onset Parkinson's patient Jim Smerdon using the device to transmit tremors to his wife and brother, giving them an insight into how he tackles everyday tasks from having a drink to simply reading a newspaper.
For the team, it's opened up the possibility of using similar technology for other diseases. It also raises potential implications for future telemedicine, where a patient could one day transmit their symptoms in real time to someone across the world. "We envision patients being able to transmit their tremors to physicians anywhere in the world to get more accurate diagnoses and better treatment," said Klick Labs VP Yan Fossat.
Klick is also looking at how VR can be used as an effective empathy tool. "We can leverage VR to bypass proprioception and simulate a particular gait of a patient with diabetic neuropathy or multiple sclerosis and virtually put other people in that patient's shoes," Fossat added.