iShoe Prototype Assists Wobbly Elderly Folk and Astronauts Alike

Forget the opportunistic naming conventions for a moment, and focus on the tech and potential of the iShoe. Designed Erez Lieberman, a graduate student in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, the iShoe could one day help doctors and NASA scientists detect balance problems before a fall occurs. Currently, the iShoe only diagnoses balance issues, but Lieberman theorises that future versions (iShoe 3G?) will actively correct bad balance with sensory stimulation. If you know anything about falls (300,000 hip fractures per year, 24% over 50 die within one year) or what happens when astronauts return home from space (10 days of wobbly knees), the iShoe couldn't come soon enough.

The iShoe actually began life as an experiment Lieberman conducted as an intern at NASA. Astronauts routinely return home with a host of balance issues thanks to the weightlessness of space, so Lieberman and the rest of the iShoe team created a new algorithm that was capable of looking at the pressure distribution of proprioceptors on the feet and analyse what that data meant. Proprioceptors, in case you didn't know, are sensory receptors which tell your brain where body parts are in relation to other body parts and the objects around you.

It took a family emergency to show Lieberman that the iShoe had ramifications beyond just a few drunken astronauts. When Lieberman's grandmother had a bad fall, he knew the tech could be used as a "balance diagnostic" to help doctors and their patients prevent falls before they occurred. The device's super-sensitive insole would measure the pressure of the foot and report data to the doctor, and in extreme cases an alarm would alert family or care givers to a fall. "Help, I've fallen and I can't get up," would be quickly replaced with "Hey, I can walk just fine! Get off my damn lawn." [MIT]

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