Microsoft Fights Parkinson’s Disease with the Emma Watch
Thanks to Ms Haiyan Zhang, the 39-year-old inventor of the Emma Watch and Microsoft Research’s Innovation Director, there is hope for a better control for Parkinson’s Disease (PD) patients.
Having invented the watch as part of her research team at Microsoft, Zhang was inspired by Ms Emma Lawton, whom she met in London. Lawton is a 33-year-old graphic designer, whose ability to draw and write was affected when she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2013.
The Emma Watch uses vibrating motors – similar to those found in mobile phones – to distract the brain into focusing on something other than trying to control the patient’s limbs. According to Zhang, Lawton’s brain is at war with itself – half is trying to move her hand, the other half is trying to stop it. The two signals battle and amplify each other, causing the tremors. The device stops that “feedback loop”.
Zhang is very pleased with its success and has since partnered with a neuroscience team in London to elevate the promising timepiece, which can improve the lives of patients suffering from PD.
It has been a year since Lawton donned the Emma Watch, and it is heartening to see that she is finally able to write her name again.
“It’s still a surprise to me when my handwriting comes out the other side of it. The device doesn’t stop my tremor. It gives me some control there. The writing, it’s not going to be perfect. But, my God, it’s better,” says Lawton in a Microsoft blog post.