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Teeth Defender – Helping Kids Not Fear the Dentist Through a Game

Dentists may be the most feared people in the medical field.  For those who have perfect teeth maybe it isn’t as much of an issue, but for people who really have to get a lot of work done it can be a miserable experience.  Kids are especially vulnerable to this fear with their lower pain tolerance, and the fact that they just generally scare easier.

One simple way to eliminate fear is to distract someone so that they don’t even notice what is going on.  In a lot of ways that is exactly what games do; they distract us from other things.  Sometimes they distract us from things we are supposed to be doing, but in places like the dentist’s office, they can help distract us from an unpleasant experience.

Students from the Technical University Delft in the Netherlands are developing a game to help kids get through the scary experience going to the dentist can be.  The game is played on a set of special glasses with a simple game controller.  As you may expect the bad guys are candy and soda, and the good guys are toothbrushes and toothpaste.

While the game obviously cannot physically get rid of the fear experienced at the dentist, but it can provide a nice distraction.  It also helps the dentist in doing their work, as the glasses start to go dark if the patient closes their mouth.  So not only does the patient get a little distraction, the dentist gets some help with their work.

The game is still in development, and should be released in a pilot version by the middle of next year.

A more in-depth article can be found here, but it is written in Dutch.

November 28, 2011 I Written By

Controlling Your Smartphone With Your Mind Using Siri and the iPhone 4S

Voice controlled smartphones are really nothing new seeing as how my first cellphone almost ten years ago could make calls with voice commands.  Siri, the voice activated personal assistant that debuted with the new iPhone 4S, takes that technology to the next level by doing just about anything your phone can do using only voice commands.

Leave it to the real techies out there to take it to the next level.  Project Black Mirror has taken that technology and attached it to EEG pads so that the device can be controlled using only brainwaves.  It is almost unbelievable until you watch the video below.

Supposedly they are up to 25 different commands that can be carried out through using only brainwaves.  A more detailed description of the process can be found below the video.  As of right now they still have to use a computer to handle all of the computing, but like most things in technology it is only a matter of time.

In the long run they hope to be able to use this technology to help people with disabilities perform tasks that never would have been possible in the past.

When you consider that they have only been working on this for about a month it is even more impressive.  You can follow further developments on their blog.

1. ECG pads provide raw skin conductivity / electrical activity as analogue data (0-5v).
2. This is plugged into the Arduino board via 4 analogue inputs (no activity = 0v, high activity = 5v).
3. The Arduino has a program burnt to it’s EPROM chip that filters the signals.
4. Josh trained the program by thinking of the main Siri commands (“Call”, “Set”, “Diary” etc.) one at a time and the program where we captured the signature brain patterns they produce.
5. The program can detect the signature patterns that indicate a certain word is being thought of. The program will then wait for a natural ‘release’ in brain waves and assume the chain of commands is now complete and action is required.
6. The series of commands are fed to a SpeakJet speech synthesiser chip
7. The audio output of which simply plugs into the iPhone’s microphone jack.

November 15, 2011 I Written By

MyCrisisRecords Update and Demo Video

A couple of months ago I wrote about a cool new product, mycrisisrecords.  It is a personal health record that can be accessed by emergency care personnel by simply scanning a QR code from a card in your wallet, calling a 24/7 call center, or inserting a USB flash drive.

Since first writing about it, they have developed a demo video, which you can find below, that shows the steps involved in registering for an account as well as how the whole thing works.  I was also sent a sample MyCrisis card to see just how easy it was to access life saving information.

It really was as simple as clicking a button on my smartphone and I had access to name, blood type, allergies, medications, health conditions, emergency contact numbers, and personal physician including phone number.  It would have only taken the push of a button to send an alert that there was an emergency so that the appropriate people could be contacted.

When I first wrote about it I wasn’t sure how easy it would really be, and with my life on the line I wasn’t sure I would want the paramedic pulling out his smart phone and waiting for an app to work, but it was incredibly fast.  The initial screen does not go in-depth with medical information, but it does give you the ability to do so if there is an actual emergency.

Having actually seen it in action I can now see the tremendous value this product can have, especially for people who have special medications or medical conditions.  We have all seen the bracelets people wear, and being in the military I have seen the special dog tags, but what could be simpler than carrying what amounts to a business card in your wallet or purse?  This also provides a wealth of information as opposed to one allergy or condition.

They also provide varying levels of membership that offer certain benefits such as how many times you can have your personal health record transmitted, special website access, and the option to buy the USB based my crisis capsule.  There is also an app for Apple and Android that is in development that will be available to all members.

This really is an amazingly simple concept that could provide tremendous peace of mind for people, especially those with life threatening medical conditions.

November 11, 2011 I Written By

$100K App Challenge to Develop an App for Finding a Hospital or Doctor

There are not many things more important than finding a good doctor, and at the same time it can be extremely difficult to find one unless you have lots of friends to ask, or have just had the same doctor your whole life.  The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is asking developers to create an app for just that purpose.

Their Aligning Forces Challenge asks developers to, “develop an application that helps patients access better health care using publicly available inpatient and outpatient measures of health care quality from the Aligning Forces program.”

We use the internet and our cell phones for getting reviews on restaurants, cars, and pretty much everything else in our lives, so why not healthcare?  It actually surprises me that there isn’t already a well developed app for this very purpose.  There are obviously the types of reviews that people put on Yahoo and other such sites, but to have an app that is based on real data and not just a personal opinion would be quite valuable in finding a quality healthcare provider.

The details of the competition can be found on their website, and the actual press release can be found here.

This is by far the most money I have seen in an app development competition which says there must be a real need/market for it, and that it should attract some quality talent.  But like most things that are still in development, who knows how long it will be before we actually see it on the market?

November 9, 2011 I Written By

AliveCor Developing a Mobile ECG Using the iPhone

While I personally am not totally convinced of the value of being able to take an ECG of yourself, I have to admit that it is pretty cool technology.  AliveCor has not yet released the device to the public, but according to their website they will be exhibiting at MEDICA 2011 in Dusseldorf Germany from Nov 16-19.

The following two videos give a much better description of the device then I ever could so I will let them describe it.




Like many of the devices similar to this I really feel like they are of the most value in underdeveloped countries.  These places will not have ECG’s all over the place like we do here in America.  Making it possible for more experienced doctors to monitor patients with tools like an ECG will greatly improve the quality of care that they receive.

November 7, 2011 I Written By