Using innovative technology similar to that used for the more widely known Parkinson’s spoon, GYENNO Technologies, a Chinese firm, has developed new Gait Aid Equipment to help the 60% of later-stage Parkinson’s patients who experience “gait freeze” and are at risk for falls. The system’s smart sensors detect when the problem may occur and provide audio, visual, and tactile alerts, so a patient knows to take precautions in order to avoid a fall. The Gait Aid Equipment features multiple devices that attach to the torso, legs, and/or a cane, utilizing computer learning methods to allow for individualization of the intervention.
Parkinson’s disease affects millions of people worldwide, but since there is no cure, disease management relies on the mitigation of symptoms. However, the results are widely varied from effective to not-effective. Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects dopamine-producing neurons in the substantia nigra, which causes both movement-related symptoms and non-movement related symptoms. The movement-related symptoms of the disease often do not manifest until later in disease progression, when more of the substantia nigra neurons have already been lost or impaired.
With increasing severity over time, the more widely known motor (movement) related symptoms are the “pill-rolling” tremors in the hands (mainly at rest), slowed movements (bradykinesia), “cogwheel” limb rigidity, gait, and balance issues. Commonly, though, people with Parkinson’s are more impacted by the non-motor symptoms, such as apathy, depression, constipation, sleep behavior disorders, loss of sense of smell, dementia, and other forms of cognitive impairment.
GYENNO has since improved on their spoon design, with the creation of version 2: Spoon II. The GYENNO Spoon II utilizes intelligent stabilization technologies that counteracts Parkinson’s tremors as food is picked up and carried to the mouth, and smooths out movements even if the hands are shaking horizontally and vertically. The fork adapter head features a rotating handle that lets patients twirl their spaghetti with ease. There is a smart sensor on the utensil that knows when the utensil reaches the mouth, and thereby reduces the shaking even more so that food does not spill. Motion sensors capture tremor movements throughout a meal and that data is collected to be studied, analyzed, and assessed by doctors.
GYENNO combines IoT and Big Data to help Parkinson’s sufferers to maintain a better quality of life. The company is collecting data from their devices and sharing the information with researchers around the world to help them better understand the disease.
We spoke with Andy Nie, the International Manager of GYENNO Technologies, to find out more about what the company is up to.
Alice Ferng, Medgadget: What is your background and how did you get involved with GYENNO?
Andy Nie, GYENNO Technologies: I study automation and have overseas working experience. I think the GYENNO is very focused and innovative. Before I joined in, also they were making very advanced products. I think it is a good chance to expand the overseas market. So I joined in and help to expand the market overseas.
Medgadget: Who first came up with the idea for GYENNO’s Parkinson’s products? What was the motivation behind this product?
Mr. Nie: It was the boss, Mr. Ren Kang, who came up with the idea. In China, we have the biggest Parkinson’s disease population the world and no one here focuses on this area. It’s a niche market and it needs more effort to develop.
Medgadget: What was the most challenging thing in engineering the spoon? How has the version 2 improved over version 1?
Mr. Nie: I think the challenging thing is that because the spoon is a new product, the supply chain management is hard. Technically, the algorithm is important the part. But since our city Shenzhen (in China) has a lot of talented people, it is not hard to find capable people to solve these issues. The main differences between the two versions are that a wider range of horizontal and vertical movements that are compensated for, in additional to a twisting fork attachment that allows the user to twirl spaghetti with their fork.
Medgadget: For the Gait Aid Equipment package, how far along in development are you, and when will this be available to the public? Tell me more about the technology. How does it work? What does it do?
Mr. Nie: Development has taken about two years so far, and we plan to launch it around August this year. This product uses similar technology to the stabilization technology in our spoon, but allows for audio, visual, and tactile alerts to be given to a Parkinson’s patient who is experiencing “gait freeze” so that they can try and avoid a fall due to the preemptive anticipation. The product features multiple wearable solutions that can be individualized. Here is some data for before and after the device intervention. [Video can be seen here ]
Before the intervention, these measurements reflect the “shaking” tremors and instability of the patient’s legs that result in the small shuffling steps, but after the device compensates for the shaking, the patient is able to take smoother steps with a close-to-normal gait. The green light signals the user that the device has made the necessary calculations to counter the Parkinson’s gait freeze symptoms and that it is safe to take steps forward.
Medgadget: What are some limitations of the current gait product?
Mr. Nie: We hope it can help up to 80% of Parkinson’s patients when they experience symptoms. The limitation is that it cannot apply to all the patients because there are still a lot of unknown and unstable elements in the patients’ symptoms. The way to improve it is by trying our best to add more ways to do an intervention, and also to have more clinical trials.
Medgadget: What’s next on the list of technological developments for Parkinsons?
Mr. Nie: Right now we have a data management software for hospitals and patients. But right now I can’t give out any more information.