Microsoft Emma wearable aims to help with Parkinson’s

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Smartwatches may no longer be the buzzword in wearables, but that doesn’t mean that the form factor has been abandoned.

A good example is the Emma Watch, a wrist wearable created by Microsoft Research Innovation Director Haiyan Zhang that’s designed to help reduce the hand tremors people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease live with. The watch made its debut on the BBC’s The Big Life Fix in 2016, and according to Microsoft, employs “vibrating motors — similar to those found in mobile phones — to distract the brain into focusing on something other than trying to control the patient’s limbs.”

Testament to the success of the project is that Zhang was able to help graphic designer Emma Lawton, who has Parkinson’s, write and sketch again.  Ms Lawton credits the Emma Watch’s stabilization for restoring her ability to write and draw again — skills she needs as a graphic designer.

“It’s a bit of a modern-day miracle — someone not being able to write and draw and then being able to do it again,” Lawton says. “And the watch continues to work. It fills me with joy that it wasn’t just a one-off, a fluke. I get foot cramps, so I’m going to try wearing it around the house on my ankle and see whether that helps. You never know.”