Microsoft shows wearable that assists graphic designer with Parkinson’s disease

Microsoft shows off Parkinson's wearable during keynote at Build 2017

Graphic designer Emma Lawton was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease three years ago at the age of 29. Now, with the help of a BBC project and Haiyan Zhang, Microsoft Research Cambridge’s innovation director, she’s been able to use a wearable device to reclaim her lifelong passion for drawing and sketching.

The Big Life Fix is a BBC series that got underway Wednesday. Lawton was featured in the first episode of the series, which focuses on people in need who turn to some of the United Kingdom’s top inventors for solutions to problems that affect their day-to-day life.

Other projects being tackled by the show include a solution for a terminally ill photographer who can no longer operate a camera, and the construction of a specialized BMX bike for a child born with no hands or feet.

Parkinson’s disease can cause sufferer’s hands to shake uncontrollably, making even simple actions almost impossible to carry out. Lawton’s tremor was becoming so severe that her career as a graphic designer was in serious jeopardy, according to a report from MS Power User.

Zhang previously created cutlery for disabled people that reacts to their movements to avoid spilling food. Building upon that foundation, she was able to create a wrist-worn device — dubbed the Emma — that helps facilitate drawing and sketching by counteracting the impulses being sent to the wearer’s arm.

The Emma intentionally shakes the user’s arm, interrupting the feedback loop that impedes normal movement. While wearing the device, Lawton was able to draw straight lines, and even write legibly. Since the BBC program was filmed, she’s apparently been wearing the Emma on a daily basis.

Zhang currently has no plans to develop the Emma into a commercial release, having designed the device to fit Lawton’s particular needs. However, she hopes that others will take the basis of the technology and continue to develop it further.

Microsoft featured the Emma during a keynote at Build 2017, showing clips from The Big Life Fix, and inviting Zhang and Lawton up on stage with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

“I’m always inspired when I listen to these stories of an individual developer who develops a deep sense of empathy for a scenario, and other human beings, and then goes after it with this most malleable of resources we have — software — and changes the world,” said Nadella, introducing the video detailing the project.

Updated 05-10-2017 by Brad Jones: Added that the Emma device was showcased as part of Microsoft’s keynote at Build 2017.

Emerging Tech

Warm up or cool down with the press of a button on the wrist-worn Embr

We review the Embr Wave, a personal heating and cooling wearable designed by a team of MIT engineers that’s now on Kickstarter. Our thoughts? It’s a little bit addictive.
Cars

Jeep’s outdoorsy Gladiator pickup truck bares it all ahead of schedule

Jeep will introduce the long-promised Wrangler-based pickup truck at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show. Named Gladiator, the model was designed to conquer the great outdoors, not for the construction site.
Home Theater

BassFit wireless in-ear headphones bring low-end fuel to your workout

V-Moda's latest headphone offering is a set of banded Bluetooth in-ears called the BassFit, a sweat-proof, ultra-secure pair of headphones that are designed to bring low-end power to your next workout.
Cars

Quick! Someone petition Ferrari to make this luscious tribute to the F40

Ferrari looks toward the future as it designs hypercars like the LaFerrari. Designer Samir Sadikhov turned his eye toward the past to create a modern interpretation of the 1987 F40 without venturing into full retro territory.
Gaming

Want to gift a Steam game so you can play with a friend? Here's how to do it

The holidays may have passed, but it's always a good time to give the gift of gaming (especially when there's a Steam sale)! Here's our quick guide on how to give a Steam game as a gift.
Computing

Multi-monitor issues? Here's how to resolve them

If you're running into multi-monitor problems, you're not alone. Two screens are very useful, but they can present some difficulties. Here are some common multi-monitor problems and how to fix them.
Emerging Tech

Microsoft’s friendly new A.I wants to figure out what you want — before you ask

Move over Siri and Alexa! Microsoft wants to build a new type of virtual assistant that wants to be your friend. Already making waves in Asia, could this be the future of A.I. BFFs?
Computing

Capture screenshots with print screen and a few alternative methods

Capturing a screenshot of your desktop is easier than you might think, but it's the kind of thing you'll probably need to know. Here's how to perform the important function in just a few, easy steps.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: A.I. selfie drones, ‘invisible’ wireless chargers

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Deals

The best MacBook deals for November 2018

If you’re in the market for a new Apple laptop, let us make your work a little easier: We hunted down the best up-to-date MacBook deals available online right now from various retailers.
Deals

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Computing

All the best deals on Surface products for Black Friday

A number of retailers are discounting Surface devices for Black Friday. Be it the Surface Pro 2017, Surface Pro 6, or the Surface Go, here's a look at how (and where) you can save big on Surface this holiday season.
Gaming

These are the coolest games you can play on your Google Chrome browser right now

Not only is Google Chrome a fantastic web browser, it's also a versatile gaming platform that you can access from just about anywhere. Here are a few of our favorite titles for the platform.
Product Review

Flexible and fast, HP's Spectre x360 is the 2-in-1 for every occasion

HP’s late-2017 refresh of the Spectre x360 13 convertible 2-in-1 leverages Intel’s eighth-generation CPUs for significantly improved performance and battery life. The thin and light frame is also tweaked, and looks better than ever.