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Sculpted Bone Healing, Active Leg Compression, and More from Health Device Startups

Latest launches from hardware accelerators go beyond measurement of health and fitness to intervention

2 min read
Sculpted Bone Healing, Active Leg Compression, and More from Health Device Startups
This active compression sleeve from Compression Kinetics is part of a new trend of wearables that intervene, not just measure.
Photo: Tekla Perry

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:

8. Intelligent Implants from HAX on Vimeo.

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:

9. Zenso from HAX on Vimeo.

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
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A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic
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Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

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