3 Technologies That Are Raising Eyebrows In Healthcare

3 Technologies That Are Raising Eyebrows In Healthcare

Back in the 90s when we imagined what the future would be like, it was usually a world with flying cars and hologram phone calls that we were thinking of. Having arrived in “the future“ it can be dismaying to find that Teslas and premium skype were what we got instead. But be encouraged, three new strides in medical technology promise to make you feel like a character in the Jetsons—all the while delivering interesting solutions to a broad range of problems.

Robot assisted rehabilitation

Recovering from a stroke is a long and arduous journey. It involves relearning basic movements like walking or grasping. Until now physical therapists have employed mostly analogue methods to help stroke survivors regain their independence. The Swiss company, Hocoma, is hoping to change this with the introduction of their robot assisted rehabilitation technology.

With this system patients are strapped into a robotic harness called the Lokomat. It simulates and assists in the walking motion. As the machinery animates formerly stagnant limbs it reignites motor reflexes involved in walking. The therapy includes a screen that displays a virtual world which patients stroll through, much like in a computer game.

The Therapy Centre am Goethering in Osnabrück, Germany, has already recorded positive results with stroke patients using the system. In light of this success Hocoma is looking to expand the rollout of their Lokomat models to other hospitals around the world.


The drone ambulance

Ambulances haven’t changed much since 1487 when they were first introduced in Spain. Medical personnel get into a van and race through a city with one aim: To get first-respondents to a patient in distress fast and then move the patient to the hospital as soon as possible. Dutch student, Alec Momont, is re-imagining that process by adding an extra step to the beginning. By using drones get to the site faster than any van could ever drive he hopes to change the way we think about emergency services delivery.

The drones are equipped with a defibrillator and a camera. In an emergency, a 911 caller can communicate their location and receive the drone within one minute (as opposed to within 10 minutes as is common among regular ambulances). If necessary, an operator can instruct the caller on where to place the tabs on the patient’s chest before remotely initiating the shock.

The technology still has a long way to go before it is cleared for use in the general population. It raises all sorts of questions about safety such as: “Is it possible to make a reliable remote diagnosis using only video?” And: “Is it safe to expect ordinary people to administer highly dangerous medical procedures?” The fact that Momont has not addressed those questions yet shows that it is mainly a conceptual project at this point. So for now he is hoping some investors will put money into the idea, help him iron out the problems and, yes, give it wings.


Talking posters

If someone said “gesundheit” in response to your sneeze that would not be very noteworthy. But if a poster turned out to be the source of the well-wishes, that would probably get even the most aloof urbanite to pause, right? A cold detector by McCann Worldgroup was set up in the Berlin central station to do just that. It is a digital, sound-sensitive City Light Poster that recognises sneezing within a radius of five metres, even going so far as to recommend the appropriate cold or flu medication to the red-nosed passer-by.

The fancy advertisement uses artificial intelligence software to recognise and compare sound patterns in order to individualise messages.

The initiative is less of an attempt to advance the cause of public health and more of a gimmick to help medication producers stand out among their competitors. True, gimmicks are not exactly as impressive as flying cars but one has to admit: There is something about artificial intelligence that gives one the feeling of having arrived in that most rarefied of places, the future.


T L Andrews


TL Andrews is a multi-media journalist based in Berlin. He produces features for radio, television and print outlets with a focus on German and European issues.

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