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Vest Helps Keep Balance-Disorder Patients From Wobbling

The touch-based system could reduce falls and improve the quality of life for patients with brain injuries

3 min read
Vest Helps Keep Balance-Disorder Patients From Wobbling

5 April 2010—If you lose your sense of balance to injury or disease, you have to learn how to walk all over again. Rehab is a slow and cumbersome process, conducted on treadmills and parallel bars, and when you go home, you’re still liable to fall. Researchers at UCLA’s Center for Advanced Surgical and Interventional Technology (CASIT) are developing a vest that could improve the rehabilitation process while you’re at the clinic and then go home with you afterward. They presented their initial findings at last month’s 2010 Haptics Symposium, in Waltham, Mass.

Their vest measures how the upper body rotates and tilts as a person walks. If the torso wobbles, accelerometers on the shoulders detect those movements. Then a control system inflates various silicone balloons, which are 25 millimeters in diameter on the outer edge. One pair is attached above the rib cage, against the chest; another pair is on the back between the shoulder blades; and two more pairs, one each on the left and right midshoulders, rest over the trapezius muscles. By inflating with various pressures and on different sides of the body, the balloons give the wearer a physical cue that he is listing to port or starboard.

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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
A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic

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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