After presenting at the MD&M Conference in Anaheim, I had the opportunity to meet Todd Gisby, the CTO of an innovative New Zealand-based company called StretchSense. He made the trip across the Pacific to attend a medical tech conference because he sees significant potential applications of his company’s stretch sensors in our field. I spoke with Todd about the technology, which you can see in action in the video below…
Shiv Gaglani, Medgadget: What is StretchSense and how did you come up with the idea?
Todd Gisby: StretchSense makes it easy to measure human body motion with a new type of soft stretchy Bluetooth sensor. Our “rubber bands with Bluetooth” are perfect for the medical, rehabilitation, sports and animation industries.
Talks with these industries highlighted that there was a need for a measurement technology that could reliably and precisely measure human movement in a way that was soft, comfortable and unobtrusive. Skin is supple and elastic, and joints bend and rotate through large ranges of motion. It was also important that it could be used anywhere and anytime, people are highly mobile!
We developed our stretch sensors for measuring people, and designed them to communicate directly with smartphones and other Bluetooth devices to make motion information instantly available to any connected device. We are technology enablers helping our partners integrate stretch sensors into their products and product development processes.
Medgadget: Can you describe what makes StretchSense novel?
Gisby: StretchSense makes stretch sensors easy. We want to be the stretch sensing tool in device designers’ toolboxes that expands their capabilities and enables them to build better devices to meet the needs of their end users more effectively. We have extensive expertise in all of the systems required to produce a complete stretch sensing solution, from the design and manufacture of the sensors, electronics, embedded systems and software for interfacing with our sensors, to working with device designers and manufacturers to integrate stretch sensors into their devices. With our sensor solutions it is possible to accurately, repeatably, and importantly unobtrusively measure the deformation or movement of the body and the way the body interacts with soft equipment, both inside and outside of a clinical setting.
Medgadget: What stage is the company in?
Gisby: StretchSense was founded in November 2012 and we have been selling sensing solutions and design consultancy services since January 2013. Since then we have received angel investment, won multiple innovation and science prizes, and bootstrapped our way to an 11 person operation with our own production facility in Auckland, New Zealand. We have close relationships with several of our partners and are actively working with them to integrate our stretch sensor technology into their product development programs.
Medgadget: How do you envision this tech being applied to medicine?
Gisby: We see exciting potential for our stretch sensors to be integrated into medical devices to provide accurate motion information and data relating to how devices interact with the human body that can be used by patients, physicians, and medical device designers. For example, device developers can use stretch sensors to quantify how soft structures interact with the human body for comfort and performance. Patients can use stretch sensor enabled devices to measure how they move and make sure they are maintaining correct form and posture. Physicians can monitor the progress of their patients, and payors can use feedback to have confidence that the treatment program is effective. We see an opportunity for stretch sensors to speed up recovery times, improve motivation and accountability, and ultimately reduce the number of clinic or hospital visits required during the recovery process.
Key areas we are currently exploring include:
- Physiotherapy, occupational therapy and post-operative care: For example, physicians can show patients the range of motion they need to do for their rehabilitation and give patients the tools to monitor their own progress and have confidence they are performing the exercises correctly.
- Aging in place: Telemedicine, particularly relating to monitoring mobility could provide early warning indicators that preventative or corrective action is needed to avoid costly hospital admissions.
- Medical device development: Quantifying performance and comfort metrics for soft structures that interface with the human body that medical device designers can use to build better devices.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg! There are many other applications we haven’t thought of that our partners need, and we are perfectly positioned to tailor a sensing solution to their specific application.
Medgadget: What is your background in technology/innovation?
Gisby: The team builds on years of expertise and knowledge gained at the University of Auckland’s ABI Biomimetics Lab as acclaimed engineering researchers in the dielectric elastomers (DE) field. We have many years of experience in hi-tech thought leadership, engineering and IP generated from our work at the lab.
We developed entrepreneurship, innovation, business and commercialization skills before StretchSense’s conception through commercial research however nothing comes close to running a start-up! We have recently received recognition for our efforts with StretchSense – last year, we were recognized as NZ’s Top Emerging Innovator and the top Innovators in Design and Engineering at the NZ Innovator’s Awards and our CEO, Ben O’Brien won the Prime Minister’s Emerging Scientist Prize.