Liftware, a new type of technology created by Lift Labs, part of Lynx Design, can help improve the lives of people with essential tremor (ET). Liftware, a line of eating utensils in product development, uses tremor stabilization technology based on the research of Anupam Pathak, Ph.D., P.E.Pathak, founder and CEO of Lynx Design, explains the research and premise behind Liftware. “The idea is to use active cancellation (which is currently in noise cancelling headphones) to stabilize larger scale motion,” he says. “At the University of Michigan, I was doing my PhD on new materials that can be used for active cancellation in the military. I figured out how to make the hardware for active cancellation of human tremor very small, and realized that this would be the perfect application for active cancellation technology.”In his studies, Pathak noticed little technology has been developed to help people with essential tremor and Parkinson’s disease. Pathak says, “People have tried making contraptions that force a person’s tremor to cease, but these looked like robotic arms that I would hate to use in public. I thought that the concept of active cancellation would be of huge help here.
Rather than forcing a hand with tremor to stop moving, which can cause pain and discomfort, Liftware responds to tremor and stabilizes what a person is trying to hold. The first product is a spoon which constantly steadies itself even while the user may be shaking. “When people with ET use our device, the effect is pretty remarkable,” says Pathak. “We often see people spilling food everywhere with a regular spoon, but with Liftware people are able to bring food from the plate to their mouth successfully and with ease.”Pathak tested the technology through clinical trials involving 15 volunteer patients at the University of Michigan. A neurologist first characterized the severity of tremor for each of the participants, and had them perform basic tasks (eating, moving objects, etc.) using Liftware. The patient and neurologist were unaware whether active stabilization was turned on or off during the trial.
“We were able to measure with our instruments an average 75% reduction in tremor from all of the people using the device,” Pathak says. “In addition, we showed a clinical improvement in tasks involving eating and manipulating objects. We will be publishing these results in the coming months.”
Funding and resources from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) facilitated early research, development, testing and plans to bring Liftware to market. Pathak says, “The NIH was a huge help. I think it speaks volumes to the growing awareness of ET. We wouldn’t be where we are without the government funding. I’m really passionate to continue to work extremely hard and see the technology through.”
In addition to Pathak’s strong background in electro-mechanical engineering and materials science, the Lift Labs team includes the work of senior mechanical design engineer John Redmond, Ph.D. and mechanical engineer Michael Allen.
The potential benefits to people with ET are immediate and practical. “The whole idea behind Liftware is to treat the user with dignity and respect. We spent a lot of time coming up with an intuitive, elegant design that we would want to give to our friends and family,” says Pathak. “It functions like a portable eating utensil you can use at home or take with you, and it is rechargeable much like an electric toothbrush.
The Lift Labs’ team is also working on solutions for drinking and grooming, but will seek feedback and suggestions for products from people with ET. In the meantime, they are currently manufacturing a spoon, with a second, deeper soup spoon attachment already in the works.
Pathak’s vision for the use of Liftware goes beyond developing and selling a product that uses his tremor stabilization technology. Ultimately, the needs of people with tremor remain at the forefront of how the technology can be useful.
“Our intention is to shift the focus of the meal from the task of eating to an opportunity to enjoy food with friends and family,” says Pathak. “We think our device can make a huge difference in how people with ET feel about eating, and we can’t wait to get our product into the hands of people that need it!”
To learn more, visit liftlabsdesign.com; you can donate Liftware to someone in need, order a Liftware gift card, or just let the company know what attachment you would like to see next.
If you have been diagnosed with essential tremor and would like a Liftware spoon but cannot afford one, you can apply to receive a donated spoon. Learn more and complete an application.