Alisa Brownlee, ATP, CAPS blog offers recent articles and web information on ALS, assistive technology--augmentative alternative communication (AAC), computer access, and other electronic devices that can impact and improve the quality of life for people with ALS.
Any views or opinions presented on this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ALS Association.
Entrepreneur Bryan Johnson says he wanted to become very rich in order to do something great for humankind.
Last year Johnson, founder of the online payments company Braintree, starting making news when he threw $100 million behind Kernel, a startup he founded to enhance human intelligence by developing brain implants capable of linking people’s thoughts to computers.
Johnson isn’t alone in believing that “neurotechnology” could be the next big thing. To many in Silicon Valley, the brain looks like an unconquered frontier whose importance dwarfs any achievement made in computing or the Web.
According to neuroscientists, several figures from the tech sector are currently scouring labs across the U.S. for technology that might fuse human and artificial intelligence. In addition to Johnson, Elon Musk has been teasing a project called “neural lace,” which he said at a 2016 conference will lead to “symbiosis with machines.” And Mark Zuckerberg declared in a 2015 Q&A that people will one day be able to share “full sensory and emotional experiences,” not just photos. Facebook has been hiring neuroscientists for an undisclosed project at Building 8, its secretive hardware division.
As these people see it, computing keeps achieving new heights, but our ability to interface with silicon is stuck in the keyboard era. Even when speaking to a computer program like Alexa or Siri, you can convey at most about 40 bits per second of information and only for short bursts. Compare that to data transfer records of a trillion bits per second along a fiber-optic cable.
“Ridiculously slow,” Musk complained.
But it turns out that connecting to the brain isn’t so easy. Six months after launching Kernel amid a media blitz, Johnson says he’s dropped his initial plans for a “memory implant,” switched scientific advisors, hired a new team, and decided to instead invest in developing a more general-purpose technology for recording and stimulating the brain using electrodes.
Johnson says the switch-up is part of trying something new. “If you look at the key contributing technologies of society, the ones with the most impact, like rockets, the Internet, biology—there was a transition point from academia to the private sector, and for the most part neuroscience hasn’t made that jump,” says Johnson. “The most critical element is timing, when is the right time to pursue this.”
After making a fortune selling Braintree to eBay for $800 million in 2013, Johnson, now 39, reportedly sought the advice of nearly 200 people on how to invest his new wealth. He settled on neurotechnology and, last August, he announced he’d create Kernel and build the first neural prosthetic for human intelligence enhancement.
But Johnson’s business plan was extremely vague; one scientist called it “metaphysical.” Kernel’s website was plastered with book-jacket-like endorsements from scientific celebrities including J. Craig Venter and Tim O’Reilly, extolling his “great” and “serious” commitment to understanding human intelligence, not to mention the impressive $100 million he later promised to invest in Kernel.
The reality is that interfacing with the brain is tough: electronics irritate its tissue and stop working after a while, and no one will get brain surgery just in order to send an e-mail. What’s more, even if you can communicate with the brain, you might not know what it is saying.
“Billionaires entering the broader neurotechnology field are very optimistic and may overlook details of the problem, which is we are far away from meaningfully understanding the brain,” says Konrad Kording, a Northwestern University neuroscientist who has advised Johnson. “But neurotechnology allows you to work on the most interesting questions in the universe while potentially making money, and so that is exciting.”
Johnson’s persona is part buttoned-down Mormon missionary (he once was one), part hard-driving door-to-door credit-processing salesman (he was that too), but now, with his new wealth, he’s also taken on the mantle of a technology prophet. At a 2016 startup conference in Silicon Valley, he showed up with his hair unbrushed, wearing a T-shirt with holes in it, and gave a wide-ranging lecture on human tool use from prehistory into the present, arguing that now “our very existence is programmable” through biology and machine interfaces.
Kernel’s original technology was a memory prosthesis, developed by Theodore Berger of the University of Southern California, who until recently was also the company’s chief scientific officer. Berger’s technology (see “10 Breakthrough Technologies: Memory Implants”) is a way of recording memories of rats and monkeys, storing these patterns on a computer chip, and re-delivering them to the hippocampus. One version of the setup, Berger says, has been tested in a handful of human patients undergoing brain surgery for other reasons.
But a mere six months after starting Kernel, Berger is no longer part of the company, and memory implants are no longer part of Kernel’s near-term plans. Johnson and Berger both confirmed the separation.
Berger’s vision, according to several people, was too complex, too speculative, and too far from becoming a medical reality, while Johnson hoped to see a return on his investment sometime soon. “They have a new direction, but we’re still talking,” says Berger. “The basic reason is it was going to take too long. It’s one thing to think about this and quite another to do it.”
Johnson says he concluded that Berger’s work “is really interesting, but not an entry point” into a commercially viable business.
By last November, Johnson was already exploring a pivot for his company, meeting with Christian Wentz, head of a small Cambridge startup, Kendall Research Systems, that sells equipment for recording in the neurons of mice and other animals. The company spun out of the laboratory of Edward Boyden, a professor at MIT who invents new ways of analyzing brain tissue.
In February, Johnson acquired Wentz’s company (for an undisclosed sum) and with it brought in a new team, including Wentz and Adam Marblestone, a noted theorist of both the limitations and possibilities of brain interfaces, who will become chief scientific officer. Both are former Boyden lab members, as are two other Kernel scientists, Caroline Moore-Kochlacs and Jake Bernstein.
Johnson says Kernel will now develop a “generalized human electrophysiology platform”—that is, a flexible way of measuring the electrical impulses from many neurons at once, and stimulating them, too. The eventual objective is to use such electronics to treat major diseases, like depression or Alzheimer’s. “It’s for clinical use,” he says. “We are a for-profit company.”
Wentz says as part of the acquisition he and Johnson agreed that much more R&D on brain interfaces will probably be needed. “We have a very sober view of what can and can’t be done,” Wentz says. “We are not naïve.” He calls Kernel’s effort a “15-year endeavor,” although he adds that “we want to do in that period what has been done in the last 100 years.”
With the pivot, Johnson is effectively jumping on an opportunity created by the Brain Initiative, an Obama-era project which plowed money into new schemes for recording neurons. That influx of cash has spurred the formation of several other startups, including Paradromics and Cortera, also developing novel hardware for collecting brain signals. As part of the government brain project, the defense R&D agency DARPA says it is close to announcing $60 million in contracts under a program to create a “high-fidelity” brain interface able to simultaneously record from one million neurons (the current record is about 200) and stimulate 100,000 at a time.
“It’s time for neuroscience to graduate from academia to a general neuroscience platform,” says Johnson. With such a technology “a whole range of new applications—a lot of white space—would open up.”
Johnson declined to describe the specifics of Kernel’s technological approach to connecting with the brain, as did Boyden and Wentz. However, the team members have been working on well-identified problems. Wentz has been involved with developing electronics for high-speed reading of data emitted by wireless implants. Already, the flow of information that can be collected from a mouse’s brain in real time outruns what a laptop computer can handle. The team also needs a way to interface with the human brain. Boyden’s lab has worked on several concepts to do so, including needle-shaped probes with tiny electrodes etched onto their surface. Another idea is to record neural activity by threading tiny optical fibers through the brain’s capillaries, an idea roughly similar to Musk’s neural lace.
More sophisticated means of reading and writing to the brain are seen as potential ways to treat psychiatric disorders. Under a concept that Boyden calls “brain coprocessors,” it may be possible to create closed-loop systems that detect certain brain signals—say, those associated with depression—and shock the brain to reverse them. Some surgeons and doctors funded by another DARPA program are in the early stages of determining whether serious mental conditions can be treated in this way (see “A Shocking Way to Fix the Brain”).
Boyden says Johnson’s $100 million makes a big difference to how he and his students view the entrepreneur’s goals. “A lot of neurotechnology has come and gone. But one thing is that it’s very expensive,” he says. “The inventing is expensive, the clinical work is expensive. It’s not easy. And here is someone putting money into the game.”
Two concurrent trends—the shifting demographics toward an aging population and the emergence of dramatic new technologies—are converging to create an intensified focus on improving the quality of life for seniors.
“Outthink Aging,” a report from IBM and the Consumer Technology Association Foundation released in September 2016, outlines the challenges of meeting the needs of the aging population and addresses the potential for leveraging new technologies for seniors that will extend their independence while also helping them to better manage everyday activities and connect more meaningfully with loved ones.
The demographic trends driving this need are global in nature and will intensify in the coming decades. By 2050, according to United Nations statistics cited in the report, more than one out of five people will be age 60 and older.
“Technology does not replace the human element, but it’s a tool that will enable the growing aging demographic and caregivers to better our lives as we age,” says Steve Ewell, executive director of the CTA Foundation.
The Consumer Technology Association, which represents more than 2,000 technology companies, launched the foundation in 2012 to focus on how technology can help older adults and people with disabilities. Its partnership with IBM, announced in January 2016, is a major step forward in fulfilling that mission. “New partnerships between industry, non-profits, academia, government, and the general public will form to accomplish these goals,” Ewell reports.
Independence with Technology
Research from AARP and others confirms that the vast majority of elders want to remain independent for as long as possible, and for many, this translates into a desire to remain in their homes. “Technology can be used to help people essentially augment their ability to age in place,” says Susann Keohane, Global Research Leader, Strategic Initiative on Aging at IBM.
From a caregiving perspective, technology allows caregivers to stay on top of their parent’s needs—for instance, with connected devices and ambient sensors that can help provide valuable information on how well someone is going about their day by monitoring changes in the environment around them.
“This is not meant as a replacement for human care,” Keohane stresses, “but as a means of providing more insightful information that will allow someone to better care for their loved one or their elder client.”
Technology also has the ability to identify signs that a transition to another type of living environment is warranted. “A lot of these major transitions that occur in life happen from an emotional standpoint—i.e., ‘Mom, I’m worried about you, you’re alone, what if something happens?” Keohane observes. “Technology allows you to get a more analytic view.”
Addressing Senior Concerns
“Outthink Aging” defines four essential aspects reflecting the core desires of an aging population as they relate to living an independent life:
Health: access to high-quality healthcare and services that encourage physical/cognitive health
Connection: staying connected with family, friends and the community
Security: protection against theft and financial fraud, while also having personal safety in the home
Dignity and independence: which includes striking a balance between the desire for privacy and the need for support
As a means of addressing those four issues, one area that’s getting attention is the Internet of Things—or IoT—which is a collective term to describe devices that are able to send and receive data. As an example, Ewell cites devices in the home that can be used to control lighting, the thermostat, and security through phone, voice control or another type of interaction.
“One of the exciting things about these technologies is that the are not necessarily being designed to address aging specifically; they’re general consumer technologies that happen to have features that can create greater independence for someone who’s older or has a disability,” Ewell explains.
One benefit of cognitive technology is the ability to help individuals stay secure, Ewell explains. “For instance, if someone wakes up in the middle of the night and they are worried—‘Did I close the garage door or lock the front door?’—these devices can control or confirm that it’s taken care of.”
Such technology also can be helpful for caregivers who need affirmation that everything is all right in the loved one’s home. However, Ewell cautions, “It needs to be done with the right degree of privacy, so that it’s really a benefit to the older adult and not just a matter of keeping watch.”
Combined with cognitive computing, IoT also can be useful in an assisted living setting. To gain more insights into this, IBM and the Avamere Family of Companies recently announced a six-month research study that will apply the power of IBM cognitive computing to improving eldercare at Avamere’s senior living and health centers. By analyzing data streaming from sensors, Avamere hopes to identify risks and gain insights with the goal of minimizing hospital readmission rates.
An Intriguing Future
As part of its continuing partnership, the CTA Foundation and IBM have undertaken a new joint initiative: self-driving transportation. Joining them in this endeavor is a third partner, Local Motors, which launched Olli in 2016 as the world’s first cognitive self-driving vehicle powered by IBM Watson technology. The partners are working together to crowd-source new cognitive technology solutions to support this initiative.
Concerns about driverless safety and accessibility are already being addressed. “Many of the vehicles developed today have a wide array of built-in sensors that enable the vehicles to be aware of challenges from other vehicles on the road,” Ewell reports. “These advanced sensors, and the fast reaction times of the vehicles, allow self-driving vehicles to be more likely to identify and avoid potential issues than human drivers.”
For an elderly population, Ewell observes that there may be opportunities to change the driver role into one of a concierge or assistant who can help with passengers’ specific needs.
This is just one of many intriguing technologies that have potential for improving older people’s lives. As Keohane observes, the challenges of aging come primarily from a loss of ability over time. “Those of us who are working on these issues have an accessibility background. We know how to make technology work for people who have disabilities. In the case of elders whose abilities are changing, we can help them with technology that meets them where they’re at in life.”
In SBS’s Simon Reeve’s Big Life Fix, designers and inventors work together to create ingenious solutions to everyday problems. The first episode features Australian inventor Haiyan Zhang, who changes the life of a young woman living with Parkinson’s disease with the Emma Watch.
We talked to Zhang about how she created the watch, the thrill of creating technology that actually helps people and what it’s like to be a woman and minority working in science…
You’re currently a Director at Microsoft Research, Cambridge. Can you tell me a little more about what this involves?
I lead a team inventing technologies for new kinds of play experiences called “Connected Play”. We’re exploring how to create magical experiences between kids, their toys and the digital world.
You’re originally from Australia. How did you wind up at Cambridge?
I left Melbourne in 2000, after finishing uni and working for a year as a software engineer. At first it was just to see the world and explore what was out there – 17 years later I’m still exploring. I’ve lived in Canada, Italy, San Francisco and have called the UK home for the last 9 years.
As a kid, were you always inventing things? Was it always your plan to go into the sciences?
I did my undergraduate degree at Monash University studying Computer Science and it was just something I fell into as I’d always been into technology and computers. I worked as a software engineer for a few years and then wanted to expand my horizons into design and thinking about what products we should be creating. I did a Masters degree in Design in Italy, which covered everything from designing products and services to tinkering with electronics.
Is it difficult being a woman in the world of computer science? Are there moments when you feel like you don’t get the same opportunities and respect as your male colleagues?
I’ve faced challenges both as a woman and an ethnic minority in the working world, I’ve also found those challenges shift slightly across continents. It’s not easy but in a 20-year career I’ve figured out how to just get on with things.
I remember in my high school years in Melbourne there was always an emphasis on the equality of genders in the workplace and it instilled in me a sense that I would be able to achieve anything and there would be no glass ceilings. I continue to operate with that mindset and I work very hard to draw attention to situations where that is not the case.
How do we encourage more women into a career in sciences? Is it about grants? Scholarships?
It’s a combination of all those things. We need to encourage girls from a very young age that they can do anything and pursue any career. Discrimination and moments where someone is put off studying science comes in many forms and at different points when someone is growing up. We as a society, as parents, as siblings, really need to nurture the mindset that girls can do anything.
Inventor Haiyan Zhang in 'Simon Reeve's Big Life Fix'.
Tell me about the Emma Watch. Can you explain in the most basic terms exactly how it works?
The Emma Watch sends vibration signals through her wrist and the signals disrupt and dampen the errant tremor signaling going to her hands.
When you begin creating a product like that was it more research based or a case of trial and error?
It was a combination of design and engineering. I did a great deal of research reading academic papers and medical journals on the topic. At the same time, I spoke with Emma and others with Parkinson’s to gain some insight into what specific challenges they faced and what ‘workaround’ solutions already existed, things like scissors that are easier to grip, a lid for your drinking glass with a straw so you don’t spill your wine.
What was the key to unlocking the science behind the watch?
I’d filled my head with a number of research papers, looking at ways to stimulate the brain in order to disrupt the tremor signals, and Emma and I visited Parkinson’s UK to look at the products out there that people were using to actually support them in their day-to-day lives.
One thing lying at the end of the table was a little digital metronome, the kind that musicians use to keep time. I asked what it was for and was told that some people with Parkinson’s suffer from freezing gait which is when their legs freeze mid-stride and they can’t seem to control them to move. In these moments the person will take out the metronome and turn it on and somehow the ticking sound will distract their brain into gaining control of their legs again. This was really a fascinating insight into what’s happening when someone’s brain is misfiring as a result of Parkinson’s and got me to start thinking about distraction or brain hacking as an approach.
The look on your face when it actually works - when Emma writes her name - is just amazing…
It’s really wonderful to see Emma use the device. I was totally blown away and continue to be awestruck every time I see her using it. I thought it would help but didn’t think it would work so well. It’s not often I get to see the impact of my work on a person and have that change the person’s life. It’s a really amazing opportunity… I feel very privileged.
What will happen with the product now? Are you planning to develop it further?
I’m talking with a neurology research team in London to do some trials with more patients, in order to validate the effects of the device and to scope out what range of people it might help. I don’t want to venture into unknown territory, but we have hopes it might treat other neurological conditions.
What’s next for you?
Shepherding further research on the Emma Watch. I also have a day job where we’re inventing some cool new technology that I’m trying to get out on to store shelves.
In general, just trying to make things in the world and have those things make a difference.
Simon Reeves Big Life Fix airs Mondays at 8.30pm on SBS.
Murali Doraiswamy, Professor, Duke University Health System
Hermann Garden, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
David Winickoff, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
Wednesday 1 March 2017
Thomas Edison, one of the great minds of the second industrial revolution, once said that “the chief function of the body is to carry the brain around.” Understanding the human brain – how it works, and how it is afflicted by diseases and disorders – is an important frontier in science and society today.
Advances in neuroscience and technology increasingly impact intellectual wellbeing, education, business, and social norms. Recent findings confirm the plasticity of the brain over the individual’s life. Imaging technologies and brain stimulation technologies are opening up totally new approaches in treating disease and potentially augmenting cognitive capacity. Unravelling the brain’s many secrets will have profound societal implications that require a closer “contract” between science and society.
Convergence across physical science, engineering, biological science, social science and humanities has boosted innovation in brain science and technological innovation. It offers large potential for a systems biology approach to unify heterogeneous data from “omics” tools, imaging technologies such as fMRI, and behavioural science.
Citizen science – the convergence between science and society – already proved successful in EyeWire where people competed to map the 1,000-neuron connectome of the mouse retina. Also, the use of nanoparticles as coating of implanted abiotic devices offers great potential to improve the immunologic acceptance of invasive diagnostics. Brain-inspired neuromorphic engineering aims to develop novel computer systems with brain-like characteristics, including low energy consumption, adequate fault tolerance, self-learning capabilities, and some sort of intelligence. Here, the convergence of nanotechnology with neuroscience could help building neuro-inspired computer chips; brain-machine interfaces and robots with artificial intelligence systems.
Future opportunities for cognitive enhancement for improved attentiveness, memory, decision making, and control through, for example, non-invasive brain stimulation and neural implants have raised, and shall continue to raise, profound ethical, legal, and social questions. What is societally acceptable and desirable, both now and in the future?
At a recent OECD workshop, we identified five possible systemic changes that could help speed up neurotechnology developments to meet pressing health challenges and societal needs.
1. Responsible research
There is growing interest in discussing and unpacking the ethical and societal aspects of brain science as the technologies and applications are developed. Much can be learned from other experiences in disruptive innovation. The international Human Genome Project (1990-2003), for example, was one of the earlier large-scale initiatives in which social scientists worked in parallel with the natural sciences in order to consider the ethical, legal and social issues (ELSI) of their work.
The deliberation of ELSI and Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) in nanotechnologies is another example of how societies, in some jurisdictions, have approached R&D activities, and the role of the public in shaping, or at least informing, their trajectory. RRI knits together activities that previously seemed sporadic. According to Jack Stilgoe, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Science and Technology Studies, University College London, the aim of responsible innovation is to connect the practice of research and innovation in the present to the futures that it promises.
Frameworks, such as ELSI and RRI should more actively engage patients and patient organisations early in the development cycle, and in a meaningful way. This could be achieved through continuous public platforms and policy discussion instead of traditional one-off public engagement and the deliberation of scientific advances and ELSI through culture and art.
Research funders – public agencies, private investors, foundations, as well as universities themselves – are particularly well positioned to shape trajectories of technology and society. Through their funding power, they have unique capacity to help place scientific work within social, ethical, and regulatory contexts.
It is an opportune time for funders to: 1) strengthen the array of approaches and mechanisms for building a robust and meaningful neurotechnology landscape that meaningfully engages human values and is informed by it; 2) discuss options to foster open and responsible innovation; and 3) better understand the opportunities and challenges for building joint initiatives in research and product development.
2. Anticipatory governance
Society and industry would benefit from earlier, and more inclusive, discussions about the ethical, legal and social implications of how neurotechnologies are being developed and their entry onto the market. For example, the impact of neuromodulatory devices that promise to enhance cognition, alter mood, or improve physical performance on human dignity, privacy, and equitable access could be considered earlier in the research and development process.
3. Open innovation
Given the significant investment risks and high failure rates of clinical trials in central nervous systems disorders, companies could adopt more open innovation approaches in which public and private stakeholders actively collaborate, share assets including intellectual property, and invest together.
4. Avoiding neuro-hype
Popular media is full of colourful brain images used to illustrate stories about neuroscience. Unproven health claims, including those which give rise to so-called ‘neuro-hype’ and ‘neuro-myths’. Misinformation is a strong possibility where scientific work potentially carries major social implications (for example, work on mental illness, competency, intelligence, etc).
It has the potential to result in public mistrust and to undermine the formation of markets. There is a need for evidence-based policies and guidelines to help the responsible development and use of neurotechnology in medical practice and in over-the-counter products. Policymakers and regulators could lead the development of a clear path to translate neurotechnology discoveries into human health advantages that are commercially viable and sustainable.
5. Access and equity
Policymakers should discuss the socio-economic questions raised by neurotechnology. Rising disparities in access to often high-priced medical innovation require tailored solutions for poorer countries. The development of public-private partnerships and simplification of technology help access to innovation in resource-limited countries.
In addition to helping people with neurological and psychiatric disorders, the biggest cause of disability worldwide, neurotechnologies will shape every aspect of society in the future. A roadmap for guiding responsible research and innovation in neurotechnology may be transformative.
PHOTO BY ALS Association and Prize4Life Mary Elizabeth McCulloch, founder and CEO of Project Vive, and Trip Miller, CFO, demonstrate how their product, the Voz Box, works. The Voz Box uses small movements from the knee, wrist or finger of the user to construct full sentences.
BELLEFONTE — Those who cannot speak can have their voice heard through biomedical speech devices, and one project in Centre County is making the option more affordable.
Project Vive, pronounced “vee-vay,” which is Spanish for “to live,” is one of the first startup businesses to graduate from Happy Valley LaunchBox and was created by a recent Penn State and Happy Valley LaunchBox graduate, Mary Elizabeth McCulloch, of Milesburg.
“Our mission is to make communication devices accessible to those who need them,”McCulloch said when she gave a presentation on her project at a recent meeting of the Centre County Board of Commissioners. “We’re really interested in creating something that’s low cost, that you can actually buy without going through insurance claims.”
McCulloch is a 2016 Penn State biomedical engineering graduate and was in the first class of the Happy Valley LaunchBox startup business incubator located in downtown State College. She said at the Feb. 28 meeting that thanks to a crowdsourcing campaign, enough money — $13,600 to be exact — has been raised to fund 13 devices to help people overcome non-verbal communication barriers.
These communication barriers are often a result of cerebral palsy or other related disabilities. More than 3.4 million people in the world have a form of cerebral palsy that causes complex communication needs, McCulloch said.
After McCulloch graduated from Bald Eagle Area High School in 2010, she said she decided to do an exchange year. For that exchange year, she went to Ecuador and worked in a special needs orphanage with children and adults who had cerebral palsy, and could not speak.
“There was no assistive technology, no devices,” McCulloch said.” We had some devices that were donated from the United States through different organizations, [but] they came with no instructions of how they worked; what happens when they break. I had a really sad story with a little number clicker device that if you typed the 1, it would say “hello,” and within a month of a boy using it — and he started to get really good at it — it broke.”
That experience led her on the path of biomedical engineering, and it was during her time at Penn State that she started working on the idea of a low-cost speech-generating device.
One thing makes Project Vive’s assistive technologies stand out from the competition is that they are much easier to use, McCulloch said. Some assistive technologies today use touch screens or keyboards with large icons, which makes them difficult to use for people who have limited control of their muscles, and they can require a lot of training to use.
All of the devices use movement to speech technology that uses a customizable menu-based system so that words and phrases can be pre-programmed, McCulloch said. The one device that Project Vive has created, the Voz Box, is connected to a glove that the user wears and is controlled by small movements from the knee, wrist or finger to construct full sentences, versus a keyboard, and uses a Bluetooth-linked speaker to amplify words. Other devices offered by Project Vive include eyeglasses for eye control, which allows the user to blink to convey what they want to communicate, a wearable elbow sensor that acts as a selection method for what the user wants to communicate when they raise their elbow, and a knee movement sensor that works when the user kicks or presses with their foot.
The cost is another big factor in what sets Project Vive’s assistive technologies apart. Other devices, such as ones that use LCD screens, can cost in the ballpark of $5,000, and eye-tracking devices can cost around $15,000, McCulloch said. The products Project Vive will offer will cost under $500.
According to Commissioner Mark Higgins, Project Vive is the type of startup business that the county would like to see flourish in one of its business incubators, such as the upcoming Bellefonte SpringBoard incubator.
Although the products are not on the market yet, McCulloch said she hopes they will be in six months.
For more information about Project Vive, visit www.projectvive.com.