Can these 5 Brain Hacking companies give us immortality?

Brain-hacking? Kind of a Frankenstein term.

The human brain has 100 billion neurons firing away all day and night. Can they be channeled, stimulated or directed in some way that benefits society? No surprise, here comes Elon Musk and Neuralink. His and four other companies are all approaching the idea that human-machine interface can change everything — especially for those suffering neurological disorders, like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s Disease, these could be life transforming.

Here is Elon’s mission statement (and this site is a one-pager!): Neuralink is developing ultra high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers. Initially, the Brain Computer Interface (BCIs) will be used for medical research, but the ultimate goal is to prevent humans from becoming obsolete, by enabling people to merge with artificial intelligence — perhaps even avoiding death.

Sounds amazing…but what does it really mean? Basically, why is this hot?

First, because they all seem to be heading towards an even more grandiose vision; avoiding death. No joke.

Second, the four companies means the competition is real:

FACEBOOK: a few weeks after Neuralink was launched, they announced an initiative to “let people type their thoughts”. Imagine a child with autism, someone with a mental disorder, so many sufferers, being able to “speak” this way. The news reports say it will take two years for a prototype medical implant and is being developed in their top secret Building 8 facility.

KERNEL: Kernel plans to build a flexible platform for recording and stimulating neurons, with the goal of treating diseases such as depression and Alzheimer’s. 

EMOTIV: (Their home page says it all):

EMOTIV Mental Commands and SDKs makes our technology an highly effective Brain-Computer-Interface and can put EMOTIV at the center of the Internet of Things and the ability to control the world around you.

DARPA: Ok, the government, but still, they are investing in several companies to develop a device that will record 1 million neurons and stimulate 100,000 in the brain. DARPA wants it the size of a nickel. Since they ‘invented’ the Internet, I’d say they have a good chance of pulling it off.

I encourage you all to visit their web sites and learn more. After all, can brain hacking help us live forever? Or is it hype?

 

Ada: Your Virtual… Doctor?

Ada, a London and Berlin-based health tech startup, sees its official U.K. push this week, and in doing so joins a number of other European startups attempting to market something similar to an AI-powered ‘doctor’. This app has been six years in the making, and originally started out start off as a tool to help doctors avoid misdiagnosis, but now it is a “personal health companion and telemedicine app”. Via a conversational interface, Ada is designed to help you work out what symptoms you have and offer you information on what might be the cause. If needed, it then offers you a follow up remote consultation with a real doctor over text.

The app works by plugging in the symptoms of something, going through quite an extensive set of questions, many of which relate to the answers you have previously given. The Ada app provides various possible conditions, and advises on next steps (treat at home vs. seek further guidance from a professional).

The app aims to empower patients to make more informed decisions about their health. Or, to out it more bluntly, to ensure we only visit a doctor when we need to and, more generally, can be proactive in our healthcare without adding the need for greater human doctor resources.

“Ada has been trained over several years using real world cases, and the platform is powered by a sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) engine combined with an extensive medical knowledge base covering many thousands of conditions, symptoms and findings,” explains the company. “In every assessment, Ada takes all of a patient’s information into consideration, including past medical history, symptoms, risk factors and more. Through machine learning and multiple closed feedback loops, Ada continues to grow more intelligent, putting Ada ahead of anyone else in the market”.

Ada isn’t claiming to replace your doctor anytime soon. Like a lot of AI being applied to various verticals, not just healthcare, the app is designed to augment the role of humans, not replace it altogether. This can happen in two ways:

  1. Helping to act as a prescreen consultation before, if needed, being handed off to a real doctor for further advice, or simply helping to create a digital paper trail before a consultation takes place.
  2. By getting some of the most obvious symptom-related questions out of the way and captured and analysed by the app, it saves significant time during any follow up consultation.

App feedback has already shown it to successfully diagnose both common and quite rare conditions. Ada’s AI, since it has and continues to be trained by real doctors, pools a lot of shared expertise.

Video on how it works

WHY IT’S HOT:

Ada is another example of how AI is continually evolving, especially in the healthcare landscape. It’s certainly a good thing that this app in particular is not promising to replace doctors, but crowdsource information to make doctor’s appointments more efficient.

On the other side of this, I am sure doctors are not thrilled about patients coming in with a self-diagnosis – which can undermine the doctor’s job and derail and appointment all together.

Source: TechCrunch

HCPs Weigh In on Direct to Consumer Advertising

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Direct to Consumer advertising in the pharmaceutical industry has always been an uneasy subject among healthcare professionals. That’s for good reason- it’s only allowed in the United State and New Zealand. In every other country pharma companies are not allowed to advertise to consumers.

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The banning of DTC advertising comes up every few years. The one of the most recent cases being in 2015, when the American Medical Association voted to ban it- to no avail. A ban or restriction of commercial advertising violates our First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3278148/

Regardless, a recent study done by InCrowd, says that 35% of HCPs would ban DTC ads. Why? 2/3 of physicians say their patients become confused due to pharma DTC advertising. 49% say advertising impairs patients’ understanding of treatment.

So why have DTC advertising (besides profit)- what’s good about it? It elicits doctor/patient conversations about treatment options. Compared to five years ago their has been a growth in discussions from x2/week to x6/week because of DTC advertising.

Still 35% of HCPs want to ban ads- this is not helpful to marketers, so let’s look at the other 65%.

  • 31% Additional Patient Education
  • 17% Simplify Messaging
  • 7% No Change (whoohoo)
  • 7% Explanation of Side Effects
  • 3% Include Cost Information

Why it’s Hot:

While only the FDA banning DTC can make this conversation really hot, this article did let us venture into the HCP mindset surrounding consumer advertising. This can help us, as marketers, deliver to HCPs what they need to communicate to their patients- mainly more educational materials.

Some good news- it’s expected that the new generation of doctors won’t have as much concerns around DTC advertising, as it will be considered commonplace.

Growing Number of Americans want Telehealth

American Well ran a Harris Poll to 4,000 consumers in 2016 to ask them about their thoughts on telehealth. In today’s fast-paced, on-the-go world it’s not surprising that a projected 50 million Americans would switch to video visits vs. scheduling an appoint for an in-office visit.

50M Americans would switch their PCP to a doctor who offers telehealth

Telehealth is an important shift in how patients access doctors. 67% of consumers say they delay seeking medical help due to high costs, long wait times, and busy schedules. Consumers still are loyal to their own doctors but want to be able to access them more easily. As such 1 in 5 Americans who switch to a doctor who has telehealth vs. one who does not.

66% of Americans would be willing to see a doctor via video. The highest demographic that are likely to utilize telehealth? Parents with children under 18 and/or those between the ages of 45-54 at 72%.

The applications that patients want to apply to telehealth include:

  • Chronic care condition
  • Post-surgical or hospital stay follow-up
  • Middle of the night care
  • Elderly care
  • Prescription refills
  • Birth control

Why it’s Hot:

The impact of having easy access to healthcare professionals could be huge for Pharma. If patients have more touch points with HCPs and if they were less likely to switch PCPs, would adherence increase?

What would it mean for pharma marketers?

  • Need for increased HCP/Patient shareable digital resources
  • Patient Apps
  • Long Term- decline in HCP office hours? More limited salesforce access?

Fully implantable bionic eye

A team of scientists from Australia’s University of New South Wales are ready to begin human trials of the Phoenix99–a fully implantable bionic eye. It is expected that the bionic will not only improve vision of the patient but will also be better than any current vision restoration devices. It has already been tested successfully in pre-clinical studies.

Not only is the Phoenix99 the first fully implantable device for restoring some vision, it is also the first implantable eye with neural stimulation technology.

A big goal for the research is to help restore sight in those affected by Retinitis Pigmentosa. There are 2 million people around the world that are affected by RP, a degenerative condition that can be found in patients in their 30s. Gradually, it can lead to complete blindness. The degeneration can only be slowed down with medicines, it cannot be reversed. In 2012, a team that included the same scientists from the University of South Wales, tried to restore some site in patients with RP through a partially implanted prototype device. The device was made up of an electrode array with some external devices that allowed the patients to see spots of light. The special cameras on the device helped the users to get a sense of distance. The Phosphenes appeared brighter when still objects came closer.

Unlike that device, the Phoenix99 is fully implantable and is expected to provide better vision to the user. The device consists of a small disc that goes behind the ear, which transmits data and powers the device. The user also wears glasses equipped with a special camera. The camera captures the images that then stimulate the nerve cells in the patient’s retina.

Why It’s Hot

If the human trials go well, the team says the bionic eye could be available to the mainstream public within 5 years. If so, this could help improve the lives of 200 million people around the World that have some form of progressive vision loss such as RP or macular degeneration.

This is also a significant step in the use of implantable technology to improve our health and lives. While work in stem cells and other areas looks to culture and grow new organs and tissues, technology is working in parallel to find ways to address these same issues with bionic parts.

 

Hot Topic: Human Gene Editing

In April of 2015, Chinese scientists shocked (and horrified some) by revealing they had used DNA-editing techniques, one known as “germline editing,” to alter a gene in human embryos. The altered embryo was not incubated to birth, but the action did set off a large debate on ethics, etc of messing with the basic building blocks of human life.

An international conference just ended on Dec 3rd in DC, and it left open the door to gene editing in humans, a technique that alters an organism’s genetic material and what is thus passed on to future generations.

The 3-day conference included scientists from the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine; the UK’s Royal Society, and the Chinese Academy of Science.

While all parties agreed that “it would be irresponsible to proceed with any clinical use of germline editing,” they did not close the door to eventual clinical use of this “editing,” in which DNA of eggs, sperm or embryos are altered in a manner that carries forward to all of the cells of the resulting progeny. These changes would also be passed on to subsequent generations and become part of the human gene pool. The panel concluded, “As scientific knowledge advances and societal views evolve, the clinical use of germline editing should be revisited on a regular basis.”

In the short-term, new gene-editing techniques on adult  human cells may have potential to create new therapies that harness the immune system to fight disease or blunt/reverse the effects of some hereditary diseases.

Why It’s Hot

This topic brings in a  host of perspectives and debatable platforms from ethics, religion, medicine, etc. A quintessential question is: just because we can do it, should we?

When Coping with Mental Illness Turns into Awareness Driving Artwork + Gratitude

When coping with his own anxiety, UK-based illustrator, Toby Allen, found that drawing his worries and fears as little monsters would help him think about them differently and make his anxiety feel more manageable. Allen imagined that his anxiety could be overcome by giving it a physical from, giving it a visible weakness that he could learn to exploit.

From his creatively ideated coping mechanism, Real Monsters was born, creating a series of drawings that aim to raise mental health awareness – by depicting different disorders and conditions as monsters.

Toby Allen, Real Monsters Series

DepressionAllen’s Real Monsters series is a collection of 16 illustrations (with another eight in the pipeline) that tackle everything from depression and anxiety to schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder.

PTSD Anxiety

After receiving a positive response on his Tumblr-shared illustrations, Allen decided to tackle a variety of other conditions as part of a larger project. “I also wanted to try and educate people about mental illness and maybe even reduce the stigma surrounding it, through helping viewers to understand what it’s like to have one of these conditions,” he explained.

“I begin each monster design by researching the condition or disorder extensively, often relying on real life case studies or first person stories to get a better understanding of the illness I intend to draw,” continued Allen. “Of course each person’s experience with a mental illness will differ, so I try to create something that many people will find familiar.”

Allen said he regularly receives emails from people who thank him for creating the work.

“I have received so many wonderful messages from people who live with one or many of the disorders I have drawn, each telling me how much the work means to them and how it has helped them to think about their condition in a different or more positive way,” he said. “Of course, due to the sensitive subject matter, I have also received some negative feedback but that’s to be expected and I respect people’s opinions on the work.”

lightWhy It’s HOT: The destigmatization of mental illness has reached a much deserved tipping point, in which, discussing mental health has overcome countless cultural, gender, and age barriers due largely in part to raising awareness through social media. Today the sharing of one’s mental health condition often feels philanthropic in nature giving the person sharing and their journey through coping and living through managing their own challenges great meaning when used to help others.

Toby Allen’s Real Monsters series exemplifies the power of social to share one’s personal coping mechanism to help others while letting others know that are not alone.

You can see more of Real Monsters, as well as examples of Allen’s other work, on his Tumblr account: zestydoesthings.tumblr.com.

 

Source: Mashable

Smart stethoscope gets FDA stamp of approval

Eko Devices, a smart medical device startup, announced this Wednesday that its Eko Core product has been cleared by the FDA. The device turns standard stethoscopes into “smart” ones. It allows doctors to take digital records of patient heartbeats using Bluetooth technology. The records are transmitted wirelessly to Eko’s HIPAA-compliant smartphone app and web portal. Eko will also sell a smart stethoscope for doctor’s who want to abandon the traditional scopes altogether.

The device costs $199 and allows doctors to chart heartbeats over time and send the recordings to specialists for further review.

Eko, which has received $2.8 million in funding, is only just beginning its cardiovascular innovations.

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Why It’s Hot

While much of the medical field has gone digital, it’s been a slow transition for the nearly 200-year-old stethoscope.

Beyond the Eko Core, the company is conducting trials in 2 San Fran hospitals to pool heartbeat data from 200 kids and 200 adults. The data will be analyzed and tested to help develop a Shazam-like heartbeat functionality being built by Eko. This is slated to underdo separate FDA-testing starting early in 2016. It would allow clinicians to interpret the heart sounds based on algorithms developed by engineers that analyze the pooled recordings.

 

CNN: Bill Gates’ poop water machine gets a test run

Earlier this year, Bill Gates posted a video of himself drinking water made from human feces. The video went viral. The water Gates drank was proceeded by a machine that collects human waste and converts it into safe, reusable byproducts such as water and electricity.

According to a blog post from Gates this week, the processor referred to as the “Omni Processor,” is getting its first test run in Senegal. Specifically, it will be tested in Dakar, a city of more than 3 million people, with about 1/3 not having access to the city’s sewer system. Groundwater contamination is common.

The Omni Processor makes much of the current waste management process obsolete, potentially making sanitation much cheaper for Dakar. The machine also saves the city money by powering the rest of the sanitation facility with electricity converted from the waste it processed. Treated water can be drunk or used for irrigation, and ash can be made into bricks.

Gates said the Omni Processor is succeeding in its test run, and the results have been promising. Gates and Janicki aim to bring more Omni Processors to other cities in need.

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Why It’s Hot

According to the CNN article, more than 2 billion people around the world — nearly a third of humanity — use toilets that aren’t connected to a sewer system. Poor sanitation kills 700,000 children every year, according to Gates. This processor can radically improve waste management and create a renewable source for electricity generation, potable water, and more.

Doximity Launching HIPAA-compliant Apple Watch App

When patients transfer hospitals, physicians change shifts, or doctors don’t know a new patient’s full history, fatal mistakes can happen. Up to 440,000 Americans die each year from preventable medical errors, making them the nation’s third-leading cause of death. And by some estimates, better communication among staff could prevent as many as one-third of those mistakes.

That’s what the people behind a new Apple Watch app, Doximity, are banking on. They think the Apple Watch can enable medical professionals to share information easily, securely, and quickly — and perhaps most importantly, hands-free.

Clinicians who belong to Doximity’s nationwide network can share information with one another by dictating, sending, and receiving brief, encrypted messages — even if they don’t work for the same hospital, or don’t have an Apple Watch.

doximity-applewatch-fax-300x365 doximity-applewatch-inbox-300x359

Why It’s Hot

This new app could change that way physicians communicate with one another, saving them valuable time throughout the day while maintaining HIPAA-compliant standards to protect patient privacy. If the Apple Watch finds success in hospitals and healthcare centers, this app could be the start of a wide range of hands-free tools for doctors.

Source

Google Smart Contact Lenses With Focus on Healthcare

Earlier this year, Google announced ambitions to make “smart” contact lenses. This week the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office granted the Mountain View, Calif. company a patent describing a sensor in a lens that could monitor glucose, among other things.

While Novartis confirmed a partnership with Google in July 2014, to make a glucose-monitoring contact lens for diabetics, the smart contact lens could be used for so much more than monitoring glucose levels.

google lense

Why It’s Hot

The combination of Google’s technology with a Pharma company like Novartis could help to improve the quality of life for millions of Americans that suffer from diabetes. In addition to it’s impact on diabetes, the concept of a “smart” contact lens could result in countless improvements to the healthcare industry.

Source

MyHealthPal: Platform for Managing Long-Term Health Conditions

MyHealthPal is a new iOS app and analytics platform designed to help patients diagnosed with chronic health conditions manage their disease. Though the platform will initially focus on Parkinson’s Disease, it is scalable to other diseases should it prove successful.

MyHealthPal employs a clean dashboard interface to let sufferers (or their caregivers) manage and measure the effectiveness of his medication, track symptoms, log mood, diet, exercise and other metrics and their impact on his quality of life.

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TechCrunch also reports., “The clever move with this startup is that is also allows users to donate their anonimized data in return for a share of the revenues that data generates to scientific research institutions and charities supporting research and care.” The app is HIPAA compliant.

Why It’s Hot

What’s most impressive about MyHealthPal isn’t its features, or that it even exists in this growing mHealth field. It’s that this was designed by an actual patient. This could help MyHealthPal flourish where others have failed, because it was designed by/for the end user. And the sale of health data makes this option financially viable in the way that a branded health tracker from a pharmaceutical company simply can never be.

Source: TechCrunch

CliniCloud’s DIY check-up kit lets you skip the doctor visit and stay in your PJs

Pretty soon, you won’t have to actually see your doctor to get a check up. The Internet is breaking down the distance barrier between between you and your physician, and now there are all manner of web-connected health monitoring devices that make remote medical care more detailed and accurate than ever before.

The latest device to pop up in this category is CliniCloud. In a nutshell, it’s basically a connected medical kit that allows you to perform your own basic checkups and even get live consultations from your doc when you need them.

The kit consists of two components: a digital stethoscope for capturing the sound of your lungs and heart and a contactless infrared thermometer. Both devices connect to CliniCloud’s accompanying smartphone app, which guides you through the check-up process with intuitive prompts and diagrams. These explain exactly where to place the stethoscope and thermometer, so you don’t need any prior medical knowledge to perform a check-up.

In addition to step-by-step guides, the app also tracks recorded health data over time to provide analytics and allows you to create multiple user profiles, so you can keep track of the entire family’s health stats. On top of that, CliniCloud has partnered with Doctor On Demand to give users the ability to video chat in real time with a licensed physician.

To help jumpstart production, CliniCloud has launched a crowdfunding campaign through Tilt, so you can currently pre-order the kit for a pledge of $109. If the campaign is a success, the company expects to ship the first units sometime in June. Until then, you’ll just have to visit your doctor the old-fashioned way.

Read more: http://www.digitaltrends.com/home/clinicloud-connected-medical-kit/#ixzz3RZlYa6Tx

Why It’s Hot

Going to the doctor can be a hassle.  Besides that, taking a sick kid out of the house is probably not a pleasant experience.  With a partnership like this, parents can connect to virtual doctors to get treatment for a loved one, while the person who’s not feeling well doesn’t have to get out of bed.  It’s a smart way to reduce the clogged waiting rooms of a doctor’s office, and get help for a sick loved one quickly.  This doesn’t replace going to a live doctor completely, but in certain cases, it could be a big help.

Wearable Device Implications for Rural Healthcare

Today, the most popular type of wearable health device is the fitness tracker, embraced by fitness enthusiasts, data geeks…primarily, the intersection of the two. However, wearable technologies have the potential to measure much more than steps, distance and calories; extending to glucose, blood pressure and brainwaves. The implications for healthcare are significant.

wearables

Physicians are already reporting that wearable technologies are helpful for patients managing obesity (the obvious), as well as diabetes, heart disease and other conditions. Wearables can also improve on-the-job safety by monitoring alertness, location and time/performance. In areas where access to physicians is limited, wearables are particularly important; helping the consumer or patient to take charge of her own health.

In this presentation, Wearable Medical Devices, implications for rural India, where there are fewer than 1 doctor for every 10,000 people, are explored. While wearables could help reduce dependency on these very few doctors, barriers to penetration include: price, positioning as a fitness vs. general health/wellness device and lack of marketing in local languages. By addressing these barriers, wearable technologies will gain access to huge untapped populations. One can even imagine a future where health insurance companies offer discounts to people who wear the devices, just as car insurance companies have done for drivers who have installed wireless devices to track when and where their car is on the road.

Why It’s Hot: Real-time feedback on health will greatly change consumers’ behavior; how they engage with health/condition-related content on the wearable, the web, et al., as well as how they engage with their caregivers/families and healthcare providers. In-person doctor visits may become less frequent, as wearables make patients more self-sufficient, as well as facilitate remote care/treatment of the patient by the doctor. Pharma marketing channels, such as in-office magazine wraps and television commercials, EMRs, wearable in-app ads, et al., increase/decrease in penetration and effectiveness.

3D Printing Helps to Treat Brain Tumor

In the summer of 2013, Pamela Shavaun Scott started having “24/7 severe headaches” — so severe that she couldn’t sleep. It wasn’t before December that she heard for sure that it was a brain tumor. Through two MRIs several month apart doctors determined that Scott’s tumor was growing and several neurosurgeons told her that, because of the mass’ location (behind her left eye), the only option was “sawing your skull open” and lifting the brain to remove the tumor, which, of course, comes with tons of risks, including possible cognitive damage and blindness. Scott worried she’d never be the same.

Scott’s husband, Michael Balzer, who is a 3D imaging expert behind the website AllThings3D, used Photoshop and layered the 2D images to compare what radiologists were telling his wife to his own research. He found the tumor hadn’t grown at all. It was clear they couldn’t simply rely on what the doctors were saying.

Using a tool called InVesalius — open-source software from Brazil that uses DICOM, MRI and CT files to visualize medical images — as well as another imaging software 3D Slicer, Balzer was able to create renderings of his wife’s tumor. The couple sent them out to hospitals across the country around February, Balzer said.

Through the 3D renderings, doctors decided to take a less invasive approach to remove the tumor. Instead of sawing into her skull and lifting the brain, the doctors planned to go through her eyelid.

The surgery was successful as the surgeons were able to remove 95% of the tumor (about 5% was wrapped around the optical nerve — too dangerous to remove). There’s a very slim chance that it will grow back, the couple said. After the surgery, Scott said it took her fewer than three weeks to recover enough to return to work.

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Anterior skull section with skull based tumor
by slo 3D creators
on Sketchfab

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Why It’s Hot

This is great example of the use of emerging technology and the way it can improve someone’s life. According to Balzer, this was the first time surgeons were able to examine physical 3D renderings prior to a medical procedure. This case study proves that 3D technology can provide value to the healthcare industry.

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Vaccine Trains Immune System to Attack Cancer Cells

While a be-all, end-all cure for cancer remains a reach, mankind is getting closer to winning the fight. An Israeli biotechnology company called Vaxil BioTherapeutics is developing a vaccine for cancer designed not to treat the disease, but to prevent it from returning.

The prophylactic vaccine, called ImMucin, has been in development for over 5 years and has proven in clinical trials to trigger a response in about 90% of cancers. Although it’s classified as a vaccine, it is given to people who are already sick, either at the early detection stage or when the patient is in remission, to prevent the disease from coming back. It does this by training the patient’s immune system to attack cancer cells.

Read more via NoCamels.com.

Why It’s Hot: According to the World Health Organization, 14 million new cancer cases are diagnosed around the world each year. The disease is the second-leading cause of death in the U.S. and scientists have been trying to find a cure for decades.

This type of immunotherapy for an illness usually thought of as incurable gives hope that a cure is out there, and may arrive sooner than we think. Having a family member recently declared in remission from cancer, this hits home for me.

Aside from the human element, as marketers, especially those who work on our pharma and healthcare clients, innovations like ImMucin are huge. When our clients are innovative, it makes our job a little bit easier.

As science and technology advance, our options become endless. Perhaps we really can do [almost] anything.

Oku: Skin Sensor for the Beauty Obsessed

OKU is a skin-focused mHealth device designed to help users obsess over their skin. OKU first uses visible light to look beneath the surface of a user’s skin to evaluate skin health. Then by analyzing a variety of factors such as oil, firmness and moisture levels, the connected app scores the user’s skin and makes care, diet and lifestyle recommendations to improve skin health. Vanity has never been this easy!

OKU

The true value of OKU comes in its recommendation/tracking capabilities. In addition to evaluating your skin today, OKU is able to predict skin developments and helps users avert negative changes. Moreover, the device helps users set goals and track progress to a healthier face.

The device launches this spring for $300.

Why It’s Hot

OKU is a major test for the consumer demand for mHealth gadgetry. While many device-based mHealth solutions are for niche or specialty conditions, OKU is thinking bigger: everyone’s got a face that blemishes and ages. The mechanism and method also position OKU to lead a burgeoning market of devices with potential to build in multiple use cases, even diagnostic capabilities for advanced conditions. Though at $300, OKU certainly doesn’t price itself for immediate mass consumer penetration. Perhaps if skincare professionals latch on to this idea and recommend OKU for their patients, OKU might find advocates?

Source: Tech Crunch

Insurer Offers ‘Cash’ for Every Health Goal You Hit

Oscar Health Insurance is trying to improve patient outcomes the old fashioned way: cold hard cash. Running with the tagline, “a new kind of health insurance company,” Oscar is challenging the health insurance model by offering rewards to subscribers who achieve set lifestyle/health outcomes with a new wearable device they call “Misfit.”

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The Misfit initiative makes it easy for anyone to participate. Oscar customers order their free Misfit wearable through the Oscar’s iOS or Android apps. Misfit syncs to their app automatically, eliminating the requirement for setup. Next, Oscar’s algorithm calculates what appropriate activity milestones should be set for individual users based on their health data. For each goal passed, users earn $1. Once they accrue $20, users can cash out their earnings in the form of an Amazon gift card.

Misfit may be an innovation to the health industry category, but it is hardly new to the world of insurance. Oscar co-founder Mario Schlosser explained the idea came to him by looking to other insurance categories, such as auto: “If I stay accident free, my car insurer will lower my rates,” says Mario Schlosser, “Why don’t we give these rewards to people when they stay healthy?”

Oscar is no stranger to cash reward programs either. The company previously offered customers $20 to get a flu shot at their local pharmacy. And though cash rewards might not work on everyone, Oscar found that customers were 2.5x more likely to get a flu shot with the reward system in-place.

Why It’s Hot

Misfit by Oscar Health Insurance is a disruptive program in a historically antiquated category. Ambitious, and certainly news-worthy we will see how successful the program becomes over time. Consumer health tracking technology offers insurers, healthcare providers and even pharmaceutical companies new opportunities to improve health outcomes and create meaningful shifts in behavior. And the more consumer healthcare data can be tied back to cost-savings and healthier patients, the sooner we’ll see more “Misfits” enter the marketplace.

Voice Recognition Software Translates Words from Those With Speech Disorders

The Phillips Innovation Fellows Competition invites makers and inventors interested in health and well-being to prove their ideas in the testing ground of crowdfunding, then picks one from those successful to back with prize money intended to accelerate bringing an innovation to market. This year’s winner is Talkitt.

Talkitt is a voice recognition software that translates what people with speech disorders mean and turns it into sounds that voice-to-text applications (and people not used to listening) can understand. It works much like any voice-to-text program, by attuning itself to the peculiarities of an individual’s pronunciation and word choice, but is optimized to understand the sounds made by people with challenges in standard pronunciation.

According to statistics from the National Institutes for Health, approximately 7.5 million people in the United States alone suffer some kind of impediment to using their voices. As technology becomes progressively more voice-driven, people with these disabilities become ever more disenfranchised. Talkitt can reverse this trend by not only connecting those individuals more fully to available tech, but also by helping them connect more fully with the people in their lives.

Voiceitt’s Indiegogo campaign raised over $25,000 dollars during the crowdfunding phase, and received a $60,000 prize plus publicity assistance and mentoring from Phillips executives to bring TalkItt to market.

Source: PSFK

Why It’s Hot

Voice recognition and interpretation has been a hot topic in recent weeks and months– from real-time translations (Skype and texting apps) to home entertainment (Xbox) to shopping (The North Face).  So has the topic of using technology to track and improve health. This is an interesting integration of the two and has implications for life improvement.

Brita Attacks Big Soda With Sugar Cube City Ad

Beverage companies are required to label how much sugar is in each can, but that doesn’t mean people understand how quickly these numbers add up. The Brita water filtration brand decided to clarify that for us. In a new advertising campaign, Brita dramatizes the sugar in sodas by building a city made entirely of sugar cubes. The new 30-second spot shows an intricate skyline, complete with skyscrapers, parks, and bridges, meant to symbolize the lifetime sugar consumption of a person who drinks one soda a day – a shocking 221,314 cubes.

Why It’s Hot?

The campaign is Brita’s ongoing efforts to remind people that water is the easiest and healthiest beverage around.
“Clean, refreshing Brita.” The brand also created a “sugar cube city” in New York’s Chelsea Market made from nearly 7,000 pounds of sugar, an equivalent of 1 million sugar cubes. That exhibit represents the adult lifetime sugar consumption from soda for a family of four, according to Brita. The marketing event will be used to generate content for a social-media campaign scheduled to run throughout 2015. Brita has formed a partnership with the alliance for a Healthier Generation, an organization founded by the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation that works to reduce childhood obesity and encourage healthy habits in children.

The TV ad is from Omnicom’s DDB, which handles the brand from its San Francisco and New York offices. Interpublic’s Jack Morton agency is producing the New York sugar cube event, while IPG’s Current Lifestyle Marketing is handling PR and content strategy. The campaign follows a Brita ad from earlier this year called “Cola Rain” that showed pedestrians being pelted by soda cans.

Google Buys Lift Labs

A person could be forgiven for thinking that Google is a biotech company.

Google plans to announce on Wednesday that it has bought Lift Labs, a San Francisco company that makes a high-tech spoon designed to make it easier for people with neurodegenerative tremors to eat, the latest in a growing list of moves the search giant has made into biotech.

A Google representative said Lift Labs would be integrated into Google Life Sciences, which is a part of Google X, the Internet giant’s long-term projects division. The representative wouldn’t say how much Google paid in the deal.

Lift Labs’ founder and a handful of employees will join Google and work out of the company’s Mountain View headquarters.

Most people take eating for granted, but for the 11 million Americans with either essential tremor or Parkinson’s disease, the act of lifting a utensil can be harrowing, embarrassing and messy.

Lift Labs’ Liftware device – basically a vibrating spoon/fork that makes eating easier by counteracting the tremors with a bunch of little swivels – tries to ameliorate the condition.

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Why It’s Hot:

The world of health is more and more important every day, and the intersection of technology is a true enabler. Companies like Google finding investment interest in these new technologies and tools shows the opportunity for what can be a huge part of the future. We must continuously think about what the healthcare experience for consumers is changing to, and we must be ready to deliver.

JMIR Publishes Scientific Study Testing Sponsored Health Consultation on Facebook

JMIR.org has posted a new clinical paper that investigates how the parents of young children would interact with a sponsored health consultation service facilitated through Facebook. The goal of the study was to present a model for delivering helpful and relevant pediatric health information to parents through a social media site.

To test this idea, a Facebook page was launched for 11 months based on a question-and-answer service produced by a pediatrician. The page was open to Facebook users over 18 years old. If the answer did not include a further referral to a health care service provider, the question was considered comprehensively answered.

Here’s the kicker: The site was funded by a pharmaceutical company, and it included an advertisement of a pharmaceutical product for children’s fever and pain.

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During the study:

  • 768 questions were submitted: an average of 69.8 per month
  • 245,533 users visited the page, averaging 727 visitors per day

Why It’s Hot

The results here demonstrate that among the target population, Facebook was seen as a positive digital resource to users. The study shows that delivering personalized healthcare information was not only possible, but also reduced the number of referral visits to healthcare providers (50%)–saving time and money. Brands and agencies need to rethink how sponsorship can enable a new model for patients/caregivers to interact with healthcare specialists, and the relationship that social media can have to creating a more educated consumer population.

Source: Pharma Guy

Ralph Lauren Goes Tech

Ralph Lauren unveiled a high-performance Polo Tech shirt at the start of the 2014 U.S. Open. The Polo Tech shirt merges biometrics into active lifestyle apparel, marking a revolution in advanced technology designed to improve general wellness and increase personal fitness. The shirt features sensors knitted into the core of the product to read biological and physiological information. The data collected by the shirt is stored by a “black box,” which includes an accelerometer and gyroscope, which capture movement and direction. That ”black box” transmits the data into the cloud, where it is plugged into a number of algorithms that gauge important performance-oriented biometrics, including heartbeat and respiration, as well as some psychometrics such as stress level and energy output.

Why It’s Hot:

Our vision is that this will transcend sports to help us at every age and in every aspect of life. Reaching far beyond just the needs of elite athletes, Polo Tech will offer innovative technology for all ages and lifestyles to promote general wellness and quality of life.” David Lauren Senior Vice President of Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations

As wearable technology continues to emerge as a hot trend moving forward, many more luxury brands will be jumping for a chance to take a slice of the pie. Ralph Lauren is getting ahead of the game by creating a useful garment to appeal to the affluent tennis/golf/fitness audience that the brand tends to attract.

Nike Vending Machine That Only Accepts NikeFuel As Payment

Nike unveiled a public vending machine at the entrance of the heavily trafficked Williamsburg bridge in New York City.  People can only access the goodies inside the machine by scanning a Nike Fuelband and using the accumulated NikeFuel points that can be obtained through the use of the Nike+ platform. The machine inventory consists of Nike merchandise in the form of socks, hats, t-shirts, and other Nike equipment.  It is unclear how long the machine will be at the location and if there are plans for a city-wide campaign featuring more machines.

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Why It’s Hot:

Nike has taken a virtual, online only currency and made it useful in the real world.  This gives NikeFuel points more importance as well as creates a unique real-world experience that could previously only be accessed through online portals.

Art Auction Where Bids Are Collected by User’s Emotional Response

Swedish glass maker Kosta Boda and its digital agency Ellermore hosted an auction that gave away three unique pieces of glass art based solely on emotions rather than the highest monetary bids.

Each of the 300+ participants viewed the auction pieces in a private room, while hooked up to a heart rate monitor and galvanic skin response (GSR) sensor. The monitors would record the participants’ biometric response to seeing the art for the first time, and the person with the highest emotional response was awarded the art. While the person was hooked up, other participants could view the person’s live response on TV monitors setup in a common space, which added to the competitive nature of the auction.

Why It’s Hot

With the advent of incorporating inexpensive biometric sensors within many different consumer technologies like smartphones and wearables, we are opening our bodies to data collection that create new and interesting ways. This auction took that data and twisted it into a competition.  Perhaps in the future we will use other biometric data to bypass the traditional purchase process.  For example, new variable pricing models could be created to price products/services based on your emotion, desperation, etc.

Source: PSFK

Smart cushion tells you when to stand up!

Darma has just introduced a smart cushion designed to measure how long you’ve been sitting, your posture, and your stress levels.  It also monitors heart rate and respiration. Controlled through a smartphone app, the cushion has built-in sensors that monitor your body and movements while sitting and reports them via an app (only available on iOS for now).

The cushion provides stand-up reminders, posture alerts and stretching guidance to relieve back pain. Unlike sensors that are attached to the body, two 1-mm sensors are embedded within the cushion to measure body micro-movements, such as when you are slouching or sitting too long.  So when you have a stressful assignment that causes you to sit for hours at your computer, hunch over your computer screen, and cause your heart rate to increase, Darma will alert you to stand up, take a breather and relax before getting back to work.

 Why Its Hot

Darma is a great example of technology designed to improve your health.  But whereas other examples involve wearable clothes, sensors attached to skin or bracelets around your wrist, Darma is strictly hands off, unobtrusive and easy to use.  And that will certainly lower the barriers to its being adopted for offices and at home.

Apple’s hand has been tipped on the iwatch

 

 

A few months ago, I posted about Apple’s Healthbook– their health monitoring platform, and its extensive possibilities (from counting steps and calories, to hydration levels and blood pressure). And it’s been noticed that Apple is quietly hiring a good number of medical professionals, and has been meeting with the FDA. Now the plans for iWatch have been leaked– it is not the wearable computing device everyone expected (and thought would be late to to market). It is instead a complex health monitoring device, with the same experience design and range of function you would expect from a new Apple device.

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iwatch rumors

Why its hot

Apple is coming in to shape and dominate the mobile health category as they did for music, then entertainment. In fact, this is likely why Nike abandoned their fitness device. Apple will take wearables and health to a new level, make it mainstream.