Elitac Wearables recently hosted a successful webinar about realising the potential of haptic feedback for the booming medical wearables market. Speakers included Prof. Van Erp, the leading authority on haptic feedback technology, Prof. Kingma, the inventor of the BalanceBelt and Prof. Ramsey, who initiated the NeuroShirt project. An international audience tuned in, ranging from product development managers from medical devices companies and start-ups to medical practitioners, researchers and students.
Elitac Wearables’ co-founder and CEO Merijn Klarenbeek opened the webinar, together with Business Development Manager René Keessen. They explained why they felt it was the right time for a webinar about this topic: “We see a growing number of applications of haptic technology for medical wearables, but we think it’s just the start. We want to show you what’s possible with haptic technology, inspire you and share what is involved in developing a medical wearable.”
It took the corona pandemic to realise that skin hunger actually exists and deserves to be solved.
Prof. Van Erp
Haptic feedback technology:
Theory & applications for medical wearables
The first speaker, Prof. Van Erp, discussed the theory and applications of haptic feedback technology. He explained that the skin is both a complex sensory information processing organ, and a social organ. This second function has received particular attention since the corona pandemic started: Skin hunger and the importance of social touch for a variety of health issues have been well documented.
“There are ample opportunities for wearables in care, […] both in ‘touch for information processing’ and ‘social touch'”, according to Prof. Van Erp. He ended his presentation by giving us a brief glimpse of a new research project he and Elitac Wearables are involved in – Project WEAFING – which aims to develop electro-active textiles.
Developing a haptic wearable for balance disorder patients
Next, Prof. Kingma explained how his broad background has helped him develop the BalanceBelt: seeing patients gave him a deeper understanding of what they needed and through his technical background he was able to develop a solution. After a short video that showed the severe consequences of non-functioning balance organs, he revealed the scale of the issue: as many as 1 in 5 people over 60 suffer from severe balance disorders.
He then detailed the development process of the BalanceBelt from idea to market-ready product, and how scientific studies were used to help shape and improve the design, and ultimately corroborate the effectiveness of the BalanceBelt.
A haptic wearable for neurosurgeons, from idea to validation
The third speaker, Prof Ramsey, described how he initiated the development of a haptic feedback shirt to deal with a very practical issue that neurosurgeons experience during surgeries: information overload. He walked the audience through the steps involved in the development (exploring, testing and validating the haptic feedback), the importance of CE certification, and maintaining an empirical approach throughout the whole process when developing medical wearables.
He also discussed how they configured the haptic feedback to convey 3 dimensions (direction and distance) in a 2D space. In response to a question from the audience, he replied that the NeuroShirt may be applicable beyond neurosurgery in the future, depending on the development of neuronavigation technology for use beyond neurosurgery.
The benefit of haptic feedback is that it is a modality […] that the body does not use during surgery.
Prof. Dr Ramsey
Finally, Merijn and René wrapped up the webinar and invited the audience to suggest topics of their own for the next Elitac Wearables webinar.