Thursday, 29 May 2014

Further ideas for leapmotion

So, following the excitement of the NHS hackathon I was at recently, it has been difficult to resume the normal medical pattern of studying 7am - 9 pm. Fortunately Monday was a bank holiday, so nothing was "officially" expected of me. It is also fortunate that we are currently in the neuro modules, which is something I semi-understand a bit of already.

A number of people have expressed excitement at the project - both clinicians and researchers as well as students. Most recently today at a placement with the INS I spoke to one of the Occupational Therapists who was interested in the potential. So far my ideas had focused on the potential for detecting severity and types of tremor in a patient, with maybe the development of games for physiotherapy.

On the way back from the INS placement I was discussing it with a fellow student, and between his feedback and what we had seen during the day, an idea crept in regarding people with Parkinsons.

The disease presents with a severe tremor, such that eating and drinking or dressing and going to the toilet are made very difficult. They also find it difficult to write, a sign that medication is working is regaining the ability to sign your name. Yet it is often still difficult to hold a pen dexterously and typing is similarly difficult.

Now, the app. If it were possible to map out a Parkinsonian tremor and tell the computer what to expect, then someone could trace out the letters they want in the air and, even if their tremors made the writing illegible, by allowing for this the computer could discern where the hand "intended" to go and react accordingly.

Possibly a simpler method (no complicated algorithms) - a virtual keyboard that moved itself relative to the finger position. Since the Leapmotion software isolates each finger, it knows which one has moved to where and can move the virtual keyboard accordingly. Even if ten-fingered typing were still impossible and it only worked with one finger, it could still improve communication.

Of course, this requires a library of different tremor types first which as far as I'm aware does not yet exist - but that is my summer plan. It may also require a more in depth knowledge of how tremors present, but I'll be at the weekly neurology grand round at the hospital tomorrow so I will pick the brains of the learnèd faculty.

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