For the millions of people who have Parkinson’s disease, tremors can turn regular routines into shaky battles. One startup has built a new sensor-laden spoon to help ease the stress of eating, using technology found in smartphones.
The spoon was invented by the San Francisco-based startup Lift Labs to cancel hand tremor, taking the frustration out of eating, founder Anupam Pathak explained in a video about the tool. The Liftware handle contains motion sensors like those found in smartphones. They detect the shake and then a microcontroller and microprocessor automatically adjust the spoon attachment to keep it stable. A rechargeable battery helps the portable device hold a charge for several meals.
Lift Labs said it plans to make other attachments, including additional utensils, wands for applying makeup and a tool that can hold keys steady. For now the device with the spoon attachment costs about $300, although the idea is to make it cheaper in the future, according to FastCoDesign’s John Brownlee.
Liftware reminded me of the handSteady cup developed by British inventor Chris Peacock after a family member was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. That lightweight cup contains ball bearings and has a rotating handle that keeps water from splashing out when the user’s hand shakes. Currently it retails for 39.99 Euros or about $64.
But you don’t need to experience tremors firsthand to understand the fear and frustration they can cause. The TV viewing public is going to get an inside look this fall when Michael J. Fox stars in a sitcom loosely based on his life as an actor with Parkinson’s disease. Discussing the comedic aspect of the show, Fox told the Star Tribune, ”There’s nothing horrible about someone in their life saying, ‘God, I’m really tired of this shaky hand thing’ and me saying, ‘Me, too.’ That’s our reality.”
I anticipate that demand will only grow for sophisticated tools and tech to help people with tremors enjoy a pleasant meal, apply makeup or quickly unlock a door. While anti-tremor drugs have come a long way, they do have limitations. A handy device that has multiple attachments like a Swiss Army Knife could make for steadier going, without the side effects.
Photo: The Liftware device with a spoon attachment. Credit: Lift Labs