OT Tech Tools: Digital Health at CES 2018

OT Tech Tools: Digital Health at CES 2018

Curious to learn what new technologies are coming on the market in 2018 to help your occupational therapy practice and your clients? Here is a list of new digital health technologies that were making headlines at the Consumer Electronics Show.

The Consumer Electronics Show is an annual event where break-through technologies often make their debut. For occupational therapists the event presents an inspiring opportunity to see how technology and health tech specifically can change our client’s lives and change the way that we practice.  

In this post, I want to share with you specific trends and tools I saw at CES 2018 that have the potential to help you and your clients.

How I, Lauren Sheehan (OTR/L), Ended Up At CES

There I am on the far left!

There I am on the far left!

I spent ten years in practice as an OT in a variety of settings, namely outpatient neuro and administrative roles in both small community and large urban hospitals.  One thing that continually frustrated me is the slow adoption of technology in healthcare.  

There are a multitude of possibilities to use technology for good in occupational therapy and health care at large.  

In mid-2017 I joined a neuro-technology company, NEOFECT, as their Clinical Manager.  In this position, I have the privilege to go to events like the Consumer Electronics Show and have made it my mission to bring other OT’s along. This allows me to share the latest and greatest in rehab and consumer technology that can improve the lives of our patients.

What Is “Digital Health”?

Before we dig in, let’s back up a step.

Let’s get on the same page about what digital health is.

According to the FDA,

Patients and consumers can use digital health to better manage and track their health and wellness related activities. The use of technologies such as smart phones, social networks and internet applications is not only changing the way we communicate, but is also providing innovative ways for us to monitor our health and well-being and giving us greater access to information. Together these advancements are leading to a convergence of people, information, technology and connectivity to improve health care and health outcomes.

As biometrics become easier and less expensive to track, we have more opportunities to use health data, such as a patient’s brain state, their respiration and heart rate, to teach them to control their body and mind.

In addition, we have opportunities to increase the robustness and objective nature of the measures by which we track patient improvement based on our OT interventions.  

Imagine teaching a patient with chronic health conditions energy conservation techniques and being able to monitor how this changes a patient’s respiration and heart rate over an extended period of time, bringing objective and undeniable support to our interventions. Visualize using EEG brainwave technology to objectively show a veteran with PTSD his or her own brain state and demonstrating how OT’s use of visualization, engagement in occupation and other techniques can literally calm the nervous system.

This and so much more will be possible as digital health advances.

New Technology Showcased at CES that OTs Need to Know About

Now that we share an understanding of digital health, here is my recap of the CES 2018 technology that has potential to change our lives, our practice and the lives of the individuals and families we serve.

Wear Your Health Tracking!

Digital health

Make Your Clothes Smart

Instead of buying smart clothes, Spire works with your existing wardrobe to “make your clothes smart”. Spire Health Tags can be attached to a user’s bra, underwear or running shorts.  With a 1.5 year battery life, the tag tracks breathing patterns, stress, sleep, heart rate and heart rate variability and activity level.  This device is used with the Spire App for real time tracking and data analysis to identify trends.  

While there may be numerous potential benefits, one of the largest applications I can see is for use with a home health population battling chronic health conditions such as cardiac issues and COPD.  

One of the possible strengths of wearable technology in OT is using the objective biometric data to determine whether strategies like energy conservation and work simplification are making a measurable difference for a client.  

In addition, as a client uses these trackers for longer periods of time, and big data gets more condition specific, we may be able to use these wearables to determine potential relapses before they get bad enough to cause re-admission. Spire currently has one model, Spire Stone, on the market and their newest Health Tag will be released in March.

Shoes that can detect a fall.

Smart Shoes - Now with Fall Detection

One of the more novel things I saw that got some buzz at CES this year is a shoe that can detect a fall and create an alert for help. This shoe was created by a French start-up called E-Vone.  

This could be a game-changer for continued support for aging in place.  The shoes are equipped with a slew of sensors, including GPS, accelerometer, gyroscope and a pressure system that knows when the shoes have been put on.  

The shoes don’t need to be connected to a mobile device because they can process information on their own due to the embedded technology.  The shoes are expected to be available in summer 2018 and pricing is expected to be between $100-150 plus $20/month for the alarm service.  

Reduce heart attacks and strokes to zero.

Going for Zero!

Omron led with their desire to reduce heart attacks and strokes with “Going for ZERO”.  Their blood pressure watch, Project Zero 2.0 Wrist Blood Pressure Monitor, which will be released by mid-2018.

The watch also pairs with the Omron app to allow patients to take control of their health and track their trends to share their stats with a physician.  They also have a really low profile EKG monitor that pairs with the app as well.  

As we continue to see more products centered around health tracking, companies like Omron are hoping to change behavior from “checking” health indicators, such as blood pressure, to habitual “health monitoring”.  

Smart Rehabilitation Tools

Upper extremity rehabilitation devices.

Making Rehab Smarter through AI and Gamification

Demonstrating the new prototype for the NeoMano Glove!

Demonstrating the new prototype for the NeoMano Glove!

NEOFECT was present at CES 2018 for the second year in a row and recognized as an innovation award honoree for a second time. They were recognized this year for the Rapael Smart Pegboard and last year for the Rapael Smart Glove.  

The Rapael line of Smart Rehab products are upper extremity rehabilitation devices. These devices work through biofeedback and gamification to increase repetition and engagement for motor relearning. This is mainly used for patients who have had strokes and brain injuries.  The devices are created to be used at home to increase the intensity of patients’ home programs recovering from hemiparesis for both adults and children.  

The device that got a lot of traction this year was the NeoMano, NEOFECT’s assistive device for grasp and release.  Currently in the prototype phase, NEOFECT hopes to launch their kickstarter campaign by mid-2018 and release the product by the end of the year.  The primary target for the grasp and release device are individuals who have had spinal cord injuries to assist them with grasp and incorporate it into their daily lives.  NeoMano was recognized by Engadget as one of CES’s Innovative products of 2018.  To receive updates about the progress of NEOFECT’s NeoMano device, sign up here.  

For Rapael Smart Glove, Smart Board and Smart Pegboard information for the clinic or home patient, check out www.rapaelhome.com.  

Our team smiling about our designation as a Best of CES 2018 Finalist!

Our team smiling about our designation as a Best of CES 2018 Finalist!

Created stabilizing silverware that detects tremors.

Stabilization Technology for Patients with Parkinson’s

Gyenno has developed the Gyenno Spoon (now with a version 2.0 to be released in April 2018) which senses a user’s tremors and stabilizes the spoon or fork through adaptive technology.  

Gyenno has been working on a project that incorporates laser technology as a guide for gait to increase step length.  This product, which they’re calling FOG (Freezing Of Gait), has sensors that detect when a user is shuffling, and turns on the lasers to guide step length and cadence.  The video demonstration of the FOG system was impressive and it will be interesting to see how it works once it hits the market in August of 2018.   

Form and Function in Mobility

Helps pedestrians who have difficulty walking.

Design It and They Whill Come

WHILL is a company that was started by a group of automotive, consumer electronics, and medical device designers and engineers. These professionals jointly dreamed of pushing the boundaries of pedestrian transportation for everyone, particularly for those who have difficulty walking.

Enter their personal electric vehicles.

The Model Ci Whill Ultra-Portable Wheelchair touts form and function in a personal electric vehicle.  It has not yet been approved by the FDA, so the device is currently only available as personal mobility device that can be used by people who have difficulty walking and wouldn’t qualify for a wheelchair through medical necessity.  

The Series M Whill Power Wheelchair is customizable (back and cushion as well as seat angle) for users that do not have high positioning or pressure relieving needs.  The design is sleek and attractive, however, the limited options for high needs users doesn’t make it a currently appropriate choice for complex seating.  

Enhancing Our Senses

Assistive technology for people with impaired eyesight.

OrCam - Transforming How We See

OrCam MyEye 2.0 is an assistive technology device for those with low vision, blindness, and severe dyslexia. It consists of a lightweight smart camera mounted to the user's eyeglasses that instantly reads text aloud from any surface, including computer screens, labels on products, dollar bills, and more.  Using complex algorithms and AI, the camera can be taught familiar faces that can then automatically be identified and whispered in the user's ear when the familiar face enters the field of view.

Essentially, the OrCam MyEye allows for the world of visual information to be dictated to a user in real-time without being connected to the cloud or through a cell phone.

At the present time, OrCam is not covered by most insurances and is only available in the US in the languages English, Spanish and French. Cost of the OrCam device is $4,500 and includes 2-3 hours of in-person training upon purchase.

Vision test.

If You Have a Smart Phone, You Can Test Vision with EyeQue

EyeQue is a personal vision tracker that connects to a cell phone to allow for refraction measurements and prescription tracking.  This is a great tool for patients who have progressive visual issues and want to track and monitor their vision changes.  

Their new product, EyeQue Insight, set to be released in March, allows for binocular vision testing for therapists that are in a low vision, vision rehab or driving program.  The binocular testing program takes about 3 minutes to complete.  

The exciting development with products such as EyeQue is making health tracking, such as vision testing, available to parts of the world that may not have ready access to optometry services.

Assistive hearing technology.

Smart Earbuds for Hearing and Attention Impairments

Nuheara initially wanted to increase the way that the average person is able to experience sound, however, they were surprised and excited that people with a variety of hearing and attention challenges started using their products.  

The IQbuds Boost use what they call “Ear ID” to calibrate to the user’s hearing profile.  It creates a unique hearing profile for the user and can serve as an alternative to hearing aids by allowing the user to control their settings through an app.  IQbuds boost will offer an audiological hearing screening as a part of their package, allowing the user to assess and track their hearing profile as well as using it to modify how they hear the world around them.  This product will retail for $499 and will be on the market this Spring.  

The LiveIQ buds, an additional product, allows for touch control for active noise cancellation and can also modify what the user hears, accentuating conversation and drowning out distracting background noise. This could be extremely beneficial for auditorily sensitive individuals such as those with autism and ADHD.  

Glasses created to increase drivers' safety.

Glasses for Smarter (and Safer) Driving

Glatus Glasses have interchangeable earpieces that are designed to be worn when driving to increase safety with the driving experience. They automatically tint and the earpieces react to sounds for hearing impaired drivers, causing the temple to vibrate when loud sounds, such as sirens, are detected.  Also, their additional interchangeable pieces can react to drowsiness by detecting a head nod and vibrating to wake the driver.  Lastly, the glasses can respond to inefficiency by detecting quick deceleration and accelerations.  

Glatus was started by the advertising arm of the Hyundai car company.  Could these glasses allow patients that are returning to driving with disabilities some cuing to provide them with a safer driving experience?  The glasses are supposed to be $250 when they hit the market at the end of 2018. (Their website is currently under construction.)

Unlocking the Power of the Brain

Brain monitoring technology.

Sense and Train Your Brainwaves

Muse is a mobile EEG brainwave sensing device that can be used to learn and manage the states of your brain in order to increase a calm state of mind.  Muse is a headset that is paired with an app and gives the user signals about their state of mind, attempting to increase their ability to enter a calm state easily and quickly.  

There is also a robust developer kit and support to use the Muse headset for research purposes.  

Again, I think that these opportunities to gather objective data about biometrics and states of mind are perfect pairings for occupational therapy.  This information could be a powerful way to show that what we do is effective not only in subjective ways, but that we’re actually able to transform the way the brain responds.

Assessing and training attention for education purposes.

Your Brain Controls Everything

Brain Co. uses a similar idea of EEG technology, however, their focus is assessing and training attention, and their application has been primarily in the education space.  

Imagine being able to determine which educational interventions are most successful from an attention standpoint in a special needs or OT classroom.  The focus series aims to better understand the attentional patterns of people with special needs, such as ADHD and autism, to increase engagement in the classroom.  

The “Lucy” series device will allow users to control electronic items such as smart home technology, toys and robotics, as well as mobility devices such as wheelchairs, using only their brainwaves.  This could allow patients with very little mobility, as in the case of high level spinal cord injuries as well as those with disorders such as “locked in syndrome”, to have more control of their environments.  Lucy is a nicely designed, wireless system that is taking next steps toward a brain-machine interface.

Automating Our ADLs?

Scan your ingredients to see what yummy foods you can make.

Smart Appliances - The Future is Now

In 2017, Whirlpool acquired Yummly, an app for online recipes, and they’re working together to make our kitchen and meal prep smarter.  

A user can scan their pantry and refrigerator to determine which recipes fit the ingredients they have.  If they’re missing an ingredient of a recipe they’ve chosen, it connects with Instacart to order the items.  

It also allows the kitchen to scan a frozen meal and automatically set an oven temperature or the microwave settings to cook the meal without the user having to manually enter that information.  This will allow for smarter planning in the kitchen.  

After a user chooses a recipe and the time they’d like to eat, the app provides notifications to let the user know when to start making and cooking the meal to get it on the table at the designated time.  

This may allow someone with cognitive challenges and difficulties with attention and memory to be independent in the kitchen.  

Self-cleaning litter box.

Litterbox, Clean Thyself

The litter robot is a self-cleaning litter box that, according to a company spokesperson, has applications for people with disabilities and has allowed folks that would have otherwise had to give up their animals, to keep their cats.  

The box interfaces with an app that tells the user when the litter needs to be emptied.  This task can be assigned to a caregiver or someone else that the user appoints, allowing them to notify a family member if they aren’t able to empty the box themselves. The device is $449 and is currently on the market.  


Workplace Ergonomics - There’s a Dashboard for That

In speaking with some of the folks at Human Scale, they not only want to create beautiful, functional products to improve ergonomics and workplace comfort, but also want to improve the lives of occupational therapists and others doing worksite ergonomic assessments.  

They have plans to release a dashboard and ergonomic screening tool in 2018 that would allow companies to detect potential ergonomic issues before they cause injury. This would allow therapists to also use the dashboard for recommending items as solutions (even if they aren’t sold by Human Scale).

The QuickStand Eco and QuickStand Under Desk were items they were showcasing as sit-stand options for easy conversion of traditional workstations. 

Our Homes Are Smarter Than Ever Before!

With SO much Smart Home technology available these days, where does one even start when it comes to Smart Home technology that can apply to people with disabilities and special needs?  

This year, the stars of the show in Smart Home technology were definitely the Alexa and now Google Home and Home Mini that allow users to integrate devices into a voice controlled world.  AI and face recognition was also big on the scene this year, turning security into a smart, face recognition system that would allow someone with disabilities the capability to let known caregivers into a home based on recognizing their identity.  

Stay tuned for a future OT Potential post specifically on Smart Home technology advances and new products for a more connected and accessible home. With all the programming available as well as artificial intelligence and machine learning, our homes can literally learn our routines and adapt to them over time. See this CNET article for a searchable guide based on price, features, appliance type and manufacturer to get you started.

Helping Overcome Clinic Challenges

Language translator device

Pocket-sized Translation for Therapists on the Go!

The Pocketalk is a hand-held, instant, two-way voice translation in your pocket.  The Pocketalk can translate up to 63 languages using Google translate in real time.  Speech is transferred to the screen in text, relayed verbally and 20 exchanges are saved in order to come back to patient quotes for documentation if needed.

The Pocketalk does require wifi, mobile data or a personal hotspot to function, so may not be appropriate for settings where wifi might not be reliable.  The Pocketalk will retail for $199 and is set to be released in May 2018.

Making the OT Life Easier for New Moms

Breast pump

Willow’s Wireless, Hands Free Breast Pump

I have worked with a lot of new moms in the OT world over the years.  As a manager, it was always challenging to assist these moms in figuring out how to fit pumping into their work routine.  With typically only one designated pumping room, it was necessary to schedule new moms, particularly if there was more than one employee needing to pump at any given time.  

The Willow Wearable Breast Pump makes pumping easier with a hands free, tube free, wireless device that allows new moms to pump whenever, wherever to decrease the stress and increase the mobility of moms that are trying to fit pumping into their daily work life.  Women can go for a walk, lay down, pump while commuting and any number of things they want to do, all while pumping. For interested moms, you can apply the amount that insurance will cover toward this pump and then pay the remainder out-of-pocket.

Willow is currently in Beta, but this could really help support new moms and decrease the stress of having to be teathered to a wall outlet when pumping.

A Special Robot For Kids with Cancer: Using Technology for Good

Developed to help children with cancer.

Aflac (the insurance company with the duck mascot we all know) and Sproutel joined forces this year to come up with a smart robotic companion that uses joyful play to help distract children coping with cancer.  

The goal of this project is to provide My Special Aflac Duck to the nearly 16,000 children newly diagnosed with cancer each year in the US.  

The connected mobile app allows children to care for their duck as well as understand and take control of their medical procedures by performing them on their duck friend.  This imaginary change of roles from patient to care provider can provide value and feelings of control for the child.  It also serves as a noise machine, providing soothing soundscapes, as well as encouraging emotional literacy through interaction with seven emoji cards, which allow children to express their emotional state through their companion.

Speaking at the Digital Health Summit

Digital Health Summit

This year, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Digital Health Summit, the second year of this exciting event which brings the industry, medical and neuroscience worlds together.  I was honored to be among some of the foremost technologists in this field; innovators using technology to improve the lives of individuals with neurological challenges such as ADHD, Autism, Parkinson’s, TBI and Stroke.  See more of the Digital Health Live coverage here.

My fellow panelists are currently developing revolutionary research in brain science and digital medicine.  

Neuroscape, a translational neuroscience center in San Francisco at UCSF, is attempting to bridge the gap between neuroscience and technology. They’re doing this by studying how video games can treat neurological disorders through digital medicine. Neuroscape founded Akili Interactive, taking the research from the lab to clinical trial for a variety of different disease states, with the goal of eventually seeing patients receive a prescription for a “digital intervention” instead of a physical one.  Brain Power is another company that is working with AI (artificial intelligence) systems to aid people with brain related challenges such as Autism by teaching social cues and emotions in real-time using Google Glass.


As you can see technologies that once seemed a far away dream are quickly becoming a reality for our patients and for our practices. These new technologies present great opportunities for our field, especially if we continue to position ourselves as experts in how health interacts with function and the environment.

I look forward to continuing to share with you, the OT Potential community, as technology advances in ways that can assist us in our practice and can improve the lives of individuals with disabilities.

Are there new technologies that you’re aware of that are going to transform the way we deliver care or create increased independence for our patients?  

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