Sunday, October 19, 2008

Rendezvous with mouth

personal by Jonathan Ward on ZooomrEssential tremor is a condition that can affect the ability to use one's hands in a steady fashion and often causes the person who has it to have problems feeding themselves, drinking, or grooming. Medical researchers are working on treatments involving neural stimulation as well as pharmaceuticals, but there are also technologically assisted methods of helping sufferers deal with the unwanted motion.

A device which fits on the person's body to attenuate the motion caused by essential tremor has been the subject of a Mechanical Engineering thesis. I was thinking, though, of a way to compensate for the tremors by using special utensils which were instrumented to correct for the shake much the same way that high-end digital cameras compensate for shaking, or perhaps like the automatic docking system used on the ESA's unmanned transports to ISS. I imagine a fork, knife, or spoon with 3-axis acceleratometers inside the handle, along with a miniature video camera pointing at the destination (the mouth), with an articulated drive holding the working end of the utensil steady despite hand tremor. Now that they have tiny motors built into mascara applicators, it cannot be too difficult to put one into a piece of flatware.

I can foresee one issue with the invention, however: would it be dishwasher-safe? Perhaps if the water-sensitive part were detachable from the spoon/knife/fork part in a way similar to the interchangeable heads on an electric toothbrush, one could get around this too.

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