Archive for March, 2016

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Wearable Technology: The Future of Physical Therapy

Thursday, March 17th, 2016

Having explored the future of the Internet of Things and Augmented Reality, we now turn our attention to Wearable Technologies, and its potential impact on how we heal in the not-too-distant future.

By extrapolating current trends in design, material science and usability our vision for the future of wearables is one that moves beyond providing basic behavioral feedback to body-altering technology that can rapidly heal a patient by providing smarter therapies, while seamlessly linking the patient to a larger connected-care community. Read on as we follow the injury, therapy and return to health of Annabelle, our patient of the future.

Annabelle is an avid climber. In September, she and her friends will be climbing the Regular Northwest Face on Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. However, while training at her local gym, Annabelle slipped off a lead route and crashed hard into the wall below. The news is bad, her entire body aches and her knee has suffered a lateral ligament sprain. It’s unlikely she will be healthy enough to climb this fall, but Annabelle is determined.

Annabelle’s doctor prescribes a full-body smart-suit equipped with the latest in sensor and conductive material technologies. The suit is programmed to provide Annabelle with the additional strength she needs in key locations to maintain a healthy posture, along with her daily activities. Conductive fabrics constrict in desired locations to bolster any weakness, while also limiting motion as her body heals. At night, a gentle compression therapy kicks in to promote blood flow to Annabelle’s knee and back.

The suit comes with a multi-purpose tablet with a built-in weight scale to measure balance and stability as Annabelle does her exercises. The tablet walks her through a prescribed workout regime that changes as she progresses. Sensors on the suit enable real-time feedback via the tablet to ensure proper form and duration.

The interface also connects Annabelle to her physical therapist who observes Annabelle remotely as she completes her workout regimen.

Screens

The suit senses strain, inflammation and exertion throughout the course of Annabelle’s therapy. The results are automatically reported back to a central database, where Annabelle’s data are compared to others like her. Artificial intelligence reprograms her suit while she sleeps to ensure that her therapy reflects the progress she is making, in real time.

Within weeks Annabelle is showing signs of recovery; the data suggests that she has almost completely recovered. Annabelle’s doctor scales back the suit to a smaller brace to continue to monitor the knee, and encourages Annabelle to slowly work back into her climbing routine. By late summer Annabelle is back to 100%; she successfully summits Half Dome with her friends, it was a trip of a lifetime.

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