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WalkBand - A device for Parkinson's patients to make their daily lives easier by reducing imbalance and the rate of falls.

The WalkBand is a vibrating device that provides a cue for Parkinson's patients to overcome freezing of gait and improve gait mechanics.

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Who is your idea designed for and how does it enable older adults to live their best possible life by preventing falls?

The WalkBand is designed for Parkinson's patients (avg. onset at age 60) who have difficulty with freezing of gait and reduced stride length. Freezing of gait is a temporary inability to move, causing balance problems. Stride length is also decreased, leading to imbalance and increased falls. The WalkBand is a vibrational cue device that can be worn at the wrist or clipped onto other areas of clothing on the body that helps patients overcome freezing and increase their stride length.

The WalkBand is designed for Parkinson's patients who have difficulty with freezing of gait or stride length problems. Parkinson’s patients have reduced levels of dopamine, which causes motor deficits. Medications can be very effective to address most symptoms of Parkinson’s, but does not always fix freezing of gait or stride length. 

Freezing of gait is a temporary, involuntary inability to move. It feels like your feet are stock. It often happens in narrow quarters, stopping and starting, turning, and during timed tasks. This freezing can be hazardous due to the increased possibility of losing balance and falling. It causes anxiety and discomfort, and most cue options available on the market are very expensive, bulky, and inconvenient.  Parkinson's also causes shuffling and reduced stride length. Vibrational feedback has been shown to change gait mechanics (reduce shuffling, increase stride length), resulting in decreased imbalance and falls.

The WalkBand is a discreet device that provides vibrational feedback (with an easily accessible on and off button) to serve as a external cue to overcome the freezing and increase stride length. When they are about to experience a freeze situation, or are in a freeze situation, they can tap to turn on the device, which vibrates at the patient's ideal walking pace. This helps the patient unfreeze and starting walking again. 

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

We have talked to a physical therapist specializing in Parkinson's, Parkinson's medical researchers at Penn Hospital doing a study on vibration cues, and a co-founder of a Parkinson's rehabilitation center in Philadelphia. We will be talking to Parkinson's patients about the device and will have patients try the device to see if they have improvement during freezing of gait situations and improved stride length.

What skills, input, or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

We would love feedback on the IDEO community on ways to compact our device, as well as improvements of the user experience (putting on the device with the difficulties/symptoms associated with Parkinson's, turning the device on and off). We would love feedback from those in the OpenIDEO community with experience in the medical field, as well as those who have personal insight into Parkinson's patient needs.

How long has your idea existed?

  • 4 months - 1 year

This idea emerged from

  • A student collaboration

Tell us about your work experience:

Melody is a former transactional attorney and a current MBA student at the Wharton School. Haimin is a mechanical engineer and currently a Master of Integrated Product Design student at University of Pennsylvania. We are both currently enrolled in a Smart Design course at University of Pennsylvania

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I'm so proud to see this team take this from a class project into something that can become real outside of class. The concept is very promising, and it's worth pursuing through deeper research.

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