Implanted Devices I
In June, I got to sit in Tony Fernandes’ lecture “Interactive Implant Devices” at UXPA San Diego, 2015, and had the most fascinating time ever. I took notes. Here we go:
Internet of Things
Internet of Us
Fernandes works for UEGroup, a consulting and not a manufacturing firm based in San Jose. The crux of his talk is that the “internet of us” is about information sharing in new communication channels. Fernandes started out by speaking about projects and wearables UEGroup has developed and continues to do, such as a 3D camera for INTEL. He used several examples of wearables beyond FitBit, Apple Watch, such as digital tattoos, biological implants, biofeedback tools, and neuro prosthesis.
Other Wearables Mentioned:
- RFID implant that is a personal identification-which already exists. The device needs to have memory on board.
- Augmented memory repositories
- Disease sensors for things like liver function.
- Injectibles (non surgery)
- Nano devices
These implanted wearables offer augmented function to improve the body’s ability to perform, stimulate the brain, perhaps control vision or support memory. Brain Computer Implants (BCI) can tap into signals and circuitry with capacity for physical involvement and contribute, support sensory systems. Neuroprosthetics are similar to BCI, also known as “brain pacemakers” or “brain pacers,” which can support paralysis patients by closing some circuits, or obstructing over productive areas in epileptic brains. Even cochlear implants interface with nerve endings in the brain and provide a digital version of sound.
One use of implanted devices had profound affect on the lecture attendants, neurostimulators that stimulate the peripheral nerve system (PNS) in the use case of patients living with extreme, unmanageable pain. An implanted device doesn’t communicate with the brain using the brain’s language, but through stimulation, sending electrodes along the spinal column. The patient feels a buzz from the device, which “jams the pain signal,” and the patient doesn’t feel pain.
Deep Brain Stimulation
DBS is beneficial for many things, such as Parkinson’s tremors and physical stiffness. DBS drive micro electrodes into the brain. Doctors need to figure out exactly where to put the electrodes so the patient cans till play the guitar, for example. In the process of implanting the device, the patient undergoes open brain surgery while plucking the banjo. The patient plays and the doctor looks for physical behavior changes in the patient as cues for where to place the devices. This can have a dramatic change in the patient’s life, prevent suicide, medication reliance, amputation, quality of life. The effectiveness of treatment matters most to UEGroup, usability second. Ultimately this research is psychological, how do people feel about their pain?
The UEGroup has developed a DBS device called Medtronic. This product is a medical procedure with risks and dangers. In order to develop this product, UEGroup consulted and researched the native environment of with surgeons, patients, nurses, family members-the stakeholders. Once the implant is inserted into the brain, programmed, and the patient gets a remote control to control the amplitude of signals. The remote control was designed in response to a need identified by the patient.
Risk & Reality in Development
- Power source: how to charge the device? Blue Tooth, wifi? Power these kinetically?
- Movement in body: could the device migrate?
- Security & privacy
- Emotional and mental impact
- Evolution in technology and upgrading the design could mean additional surgery
Some caveats Fernandes mentioned are that analog is nature and digital switches on and off. Humans are not good at manipulating the fundamentals of electricity. Wanting to take our universe and fit it into the natural universe is a complex and arduous feat.
References & Reads
- Tony Fernandes (Amazon), UEGroup, The Ultimate Wearables: Interactive Implants
- UEG, Emotie
- UXPA San Diego
- User Experience Professional Association
- The Guardian (author unknown), Mapping the mind with nanotechnology