Last week in Aging With Geekitude, Erica introduced us to Google Helpouts and how to use the new site to get face-to-face help online – read about it! This week, she’s looking at the best new and soon to come products in health tech for the 50-plus crowd.
As a lifelong gadget freak I was in heaven at the recent AARP Convention in Boston. All kinds of fun technology was on display, and the most fun was at the Health Innovations LivePitch event. This was a more polite version of one of my favorite shows, the Shark Tank, where entrepreneurs pitch a group of billionaire investors and vie for money to grow their businesses. The event at AARP focused on health gadgets for the senior market.
We the audience, including judges and potential investors, were encouraged to rate the inventions on a scale of 1 to 10 using digital ticker devices. The quality of the inventions varied wildly, from brilliant to why bother.
These are the products I rated most highly.
Top 4 already available
- Liftware The top award winner. A truly innovative device for people with Essential Tremor or Parkinson’s. It’s a utensil that can take a fork, spoon or keyholder attachment, and through circuitry built into its handle helps people who are too disabled by tremor to feed themselves without the food being spattered all over the table. The smart device detects different types of movement and can tell the difference between the intended movement of spoon to mouth and unintended tremor. It counteracts the tremors by moving in the opposite direction. It’s expensive at $300, but attachable to different utensils, and if it helps someone retain some independence, it’s well worth it.
- Biisafe buddy This cool little gadget has a shiny disc attached to what looks like a key ring which has a Bluetooth tracker that you can call from your smartphone to find your keys. You can buy a few and attach them to all your stuff. It also sends an alert to a friend or family member if needed. The Biisafe buddy costs 59 Euros and ships from Finland, so while you can order it now, I suggest you wait until it shows up on Amazon.
- Healthspek is a free iPad app that organizes all your medical records in one place. It solves the problem of multiple doctors having no idea what the others are doing, and prescribing you conflicting meds that could kill you, and you not knowing where to find your own medical information. With it, you get a unique Healthspek email address and webpage so that doctors, lab companies, etc. can send or upload documents directly to your Healthspek record. The app does a lot more as well, such as helping you keep track of meds and reminding you when to take them. This would be a winner if it could be used on more devices, such as a computer and Android tablets and phones, and if there were phone support.
- Whill This incredibly cool high tech scooter, which was being driven around at the convention, looks like a Segway you can sit on. I want one. Desperately. Whill’s founder and CEO, Satoshi Sugi, says, “I wanted to make a wheelchair that would make the user feel confident and cool, while also using technology to improve the experience and capabilities.” He succeeded. The Whill is small and narrow, takes up less room than a scooter, goes uphill and over all kinds of terrain including curbs, is very maneuverable and whizzes around tight corners Those are the pros. There’s one big con: a price tag of $9,500 that Medicare doesn’t cover. Fifty units are available for pre-order from the Whill website if you have the big bucks.
Top 3 not quite ready for prime time
Here are a couple of inventions that were pitched that I really want to see in action, but they’re not actually available yet.
- Clear Ear This ear wax removal machine looks like a Water Pik and works on a similar principle. It feeds water into the ear to soften the wax and has a mechanical thingie that removes the wax. The only version availableat the moment is for doctor’s offices but it costs around $2,000, so I can’t imagine that the one for home use will be cheap, but I can hope. Ear wax is a big issue for us hearing aid wearers. I approached the young jeans-clad woman who pitched it (I assume she also developed it) and asked her how it was different from a Q-tip. She said it was like a Q-tip with a little roto-rooter attached. I told her she should take it to the Shark Tank.
- Smart Diapers A company called Pixie Scientific has developed disposable incontinence briefs with some kind of sensor that talks to your smartphone, telling it if you – or more likely your relative with Alzheimers – have a urinary tract infection or health problem. The notion of talking diapers makes me profoundly uneasy and I have no idea if this invention is useful or not, but the name of the company plus the young, blond, spike-heeled presenter contrasted so radically with the invention itself (originally for babies) that I couldn’t resist including it. BTW smart diapers cost 30 percent more than regular ones.
- INF Robotics Robby the Robot at your service. INF Robotics is trying to come up with a robot to take care of older people who have physical or cognitive impairments and disabled people. The company says the robot will look like a person, so it won’t be scary. This particular company may not succeed with their goal – they haven’t gotten very far according to their website – but I’m sure someone will manage to invent a robot to take care of us; maybe the Japanese company that invented the Whill. The Japanese are robot crazy and have already invented some humanoid versions.
In the end, Liftware was named the 2014 Judges Winner, and ClearEar won the prize for best Speed Pitch.
It wasn’t pitched at the AARP Convention, but I think the next big invention that will revolutionize our lives is the self-driving car. Google has already developed prototypes. I hope they’re available and affordable by the time I need one. In the meantime I’ll buy a Whill.
What tech product would you like to see invented or brought to market?
Erica Manfred is a journalist, essayist and humorist who writes about everything from dentistry to divorce to fantasy fiction. Friend her on Facebook.