This self-stabilizing pen helps people with Parkinson’s write legibly again

Stabilization technology isn’t just for video cameras and GoPro mounts anymore. Thanks to the work of some brilliant designers, it’s beginning to find its way into other applications, such as self-stabilizing spoons for people with hand tremors, or (more recently) a pen that helps Parkinson’s sufferers write legibly again.

In addition to tremors and other involuntary hand movements, people with Parkinson’s disease often develop a secondary condition known as micrographia. This condition results in small, cramped, and increasingly illegible handwriting — so much so that people who develop this affliction sometimes give up the practice of writing or drawing altogether.

The ARC pen addresses this problem. Built by a group of students from the UK’s Royal College of Art and Imperial College London, the pen uses a number of high-frequency vibration motors to nullify small involuntary movements and stimulate key muscles in the hand. This not only helps to smooth out the user’s handwriting, but also makes it easier to move the pen across paper.

In a number of preliminary trials, the ARC pen’s creators found that it led to a remarkable improvement in legibility in the handwriting of 14 different test subjects. According to their data, 93 percent of the users who tested the device saw increased size in their letters, making them readable again. Perhaps most interesting, the ARC’s designers say the effects of using the pen last up to 10 minutes after the device is turned off, giving people some time to use their improved dexterity for other tasks.

It’s just a prototype at this point, but the team has already taken it through multiple design iterations, and is currently looking for partners to help bring the pen to production. Don’t be surprised if you see the ARC pen pop up on Kickstarter or Indiegogo in the next few months.

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