Tag Archives: health technology

OrbIT group pic resized assistive technology

Game on – assistive tech for Parkinson’s disease

A gaming system called ‘OrbIT’ is being trialled to improve health outcomes for individuals with Parkinson’s disease, thanks to a collaboration between Flinders University, the University of Adelaide and Parkinson’s South Australia.

The three-year study, funded by the Estate of the late Olga Mabel Woolger, will trial the assistive technology as a cognitive training device to improve outcomes and delay the onset of dementia for people with Parkinson’s disease. The research project is led by Flinders University Rehabilitation Engineer David Hobbs and University of Adelaide neuroscientist Dr Lyndsey Collins-Praino, in partnership with Parkinson’s South Australia.

The OrbIT system is a fun and easy to use computer gaming system designed to engage the player in targeted, cognitively challenging activities. It features a novel controller which does not require a strong grip or fine motor control. This makes it highly suitable for individuals with Parkinson’s disease, who may otherwise struggle to use traditional gaming consoles.

There are over 82, 000 Australians living with Parkinson’s today, making it the most common major movement disorder and second most prevalent neurodegenerative condition. There is currently no cure.

“Within 15 to 20 years, 80% of people with Parkinson’s will go on to develop dementia”, explains Dr Collins-Praino. “Using the OrbIT system as a cognitive training device may help to slow down and prevent this.”

OrbIT was originally developed for children with cerebral palsy and has also been trialled for people undergoing stroke rehabilitation. The current collaboration came about through a chance meeting when Dr Collins-Praino attended a presentation by OrbIT lead developer Mr Hobbs and suggested the potential for OrbIT to help people with Parkinson’s.  

“Sometimes the best collaborations come about by chance”, says Dr Collins-Praino, who is looking forward to using OrbIT in a clinical setting. “It’s really exciting to have a potential tool that can make cognitive training accessible.”

The trials will take place through Parkinson’s SA’s new Brain x Body Fitness Studio, a studio which focuses on movement and flexibility, whilst also being a social hub for over 50’s. As well as traditional gym facilities, Brain x Body provides programs and assistive technologies which have been clinically proven to improve neuroplasticity,

Chief Executive Officer of Parkinson’s SA, Olivia Nassaris, has always been on the lookout for assistive technologies and was highly impressed by OrbIT when she first visited Mr Hobbs’ Flinders University laboratory last year. She describes OrbIT as the perfect project. “It happened completely organically. Dr Collins-Praino saw the potential for the benefits of OrbIT to be translated to Parkinson’s research and the collaboration has worked out perfectly between the three groups.”

“Assistive technology such as OrbIT improve quality of life by maximising independence and self-management”, says Ms Nassaris. This research trial will be an important step in improving the health outcomes for individuals with Parkinson’s disease.  

Source: University of Adelaide, Parkinson’s SA

Image: Lyn Paunovic (centre), who has Parkinson’s disease, holds the OrbIT game controller. Left to right: Lyn’s husband Tolley Paunovic, Dr Lyndsey Collins-Praino, Lyn Paunovic, Olivia Nassaris and David Hobbs.

cognitive technology

Cognitive technology is the future, digital is simply a platform

Digital disruption is no longer confined to the online world – if indeed it ever was. We’ve already begun to see cognitive technology – technology able to perform what were traditionally human tasks – disrupt industries that we’ve previously considered as offline; from taxis to hotels and even door-to-door deliveries.

In order to innovate for tomorrow however, we need to stop thinking in terms of “online” and “offline”, because digital is simply a platform, and it’s “cognitive” that’s the future.

Living in the cognitive era

Throughout the age of digital disruption, we saw industries which have, until now, underestimated the impact that technology can have on their operations.

Now, we find ourselves in the “cognitive era” – an age in which cognitive technology can understand, reason, learn and interact with natural language, and is very quickly bridging the human and machine divide in industries which never expected to be digitally disrupted. 

We are seeing augmented intelligence transform industries which have traditionally had a relatively low demand to “go digital”; industries such as healthcare, natural resources, and even fashion.

The thought of partnering AI technology with a creative industry like fashion seemed a little bit sci fi just a few years ago, yet is now on our doorstep. 

Cognitive technology in healthcare

In healthcare, cognitive technology is already playing a key role in progressing the science of how we tackle the big health battles of today, such as cancer and chronic illness.

The number of Australians affected by cancer is expected to rise by almost 15% between now and 2020, and preventable chronic illnesses place a heavy burden on our health systems. It all comes down to early detection. Take skin cancers and melanomas for example; identifying the subtlest of changes in skin lesions as early as possible is key to a patient’s survival.

IBM Research is using image analytics and cognitive technology to help doctors identify these changes in dermatological images, and improve the rate of early detection.

The same logic applies to chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease; the earlier we can identify at-risk patients and put them into preventative care programs, the better their quality of life; and we can also start to lessen the burden on health systems.

Disruption in creative industries

Beyond health, there are other industries ripe for disruption from cognitive technology. Governments and urban planners now count Internet of Things sensors and mobile devices amongst the tools for creating friendlier, smarter and in many ways, self-managing cities.

Even artists and designers have begun to incorporate data into their creative concepts, whether analysing past fashion trends or creating pieces that respond to digital feedback in real-time.

Embracing cognitive computing

The digital age is well and truly a given for all businesses and we must embrace this new era of cognitive computing. The emerging technologies on our doorstep – from the Internet of Things to cognitive technology to quantum computing – will make data even more powerful than it already is.

This means we need to become more ambitious in our disruptive efforts: rather than seeking to simply overturn the latest applications or digital platforms, we should focus on how to apply technology which can understand, reason, learn and interact with phenomena in the physical world, and vice versa.

Dr Joanna Batstone

Chief Technology Officer, IBM Australia 

Vice President and Lab Director, IBM Research

Read next: Joanna Batstone, discusses how scientists and business leaders can work together in disruptive partnerships.

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