It’s only been a couple of years since fitness bands and apps that tracked movement were the latest thing in health and wellness technology. But it’s already easy to forget that they once seemed futuristic.
Today, health tech startups induce yawns if all they can talk about is tracking. Now, the excitement surrounds intervention. Said one founder about his product, though he could have been speaking about them all: “We want to create a line of products that don’t just focus on measurement and statistics, but actively make the body function better.”
Four such startups unveiled their technology in San Francisco this week—three as part of the HAX hardware accelerator’s seventh class of startups, and another as part of Highway1 accelerator’s fifth class of startups.
A quick look:
Intelligent Implants, a HAX accelerator company, introduced the SmartFuse implantable, wirelessly powered, electrical stimulator for use in spinal fusion surgeries. The company says the device can accelerate, monitor, and adjust bone growth, dissolving bone, say, if a section of growing bone starts pressing on a nerve. The device still needs FDA approval. Here's Intelligent Implants four-minute presentation:
Compression Kinetics, a Highway1 accelerator company, is also taking on healing—in this case, muscle and soft tissue healing for faster recovery from athletic injuries and overuse (photo, top). The slim, portable, electronic gadget is intended to replace large, expensive compression leg sleeves used by professional athletes. The company has yet to release details about the technology, or an exact price, but says it will be somewhere below $1000. John Pamplin, co-founder and CTO, says the initial market will be professional and college athletes already using the bulkier technology, then general active users. Beta products will ship in April 2016, with a more extensive rollout planned for November, he said.
Berkeley Ultrasound, a HAX accelerator company, is targeting its pulsed, tunable, targeted ultrasound system for researchers investigating ways brain stimulation via ultrasound can treat depression, memory function, Alzheimer’s and dementia. The company says its “Low Intensity Focused Transcranial Ultrasound Pulse (LIFTUP) NeuroResonator” can operate inside an fMRI machine, and has already been approved for use in research; as an investigative device it doesn’t need FDA approval.
Zenso, launching at the HAX event, has designed a self-contained biofeedback wearable. It detects when a wearer’s heart rate is speeding up, indicating rising anxiety, and trains the wearer to bring it down on demand without requiring a smartphone and app (though it eventually connects to an app to track anxiety over time). The gadget, worn strapped around the chest, has two electrocardiogram sensors and touch feedback. The company will not sell this direct to consumers, but will be offering it through mental health professionals, and has confirmed that many insurance plans will cover its use. Here's Zenso's presentation:
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.