Emma Watch: A Device to Reduce Tremor in Parkinson’s Patients

Emma watch for Parkinson's patients

Overview

Parkinson’s disease affects more than 10 million people around the world, with tens of thousands of people being diagnosed every year. One of the primary symptoms of this progressive disease is tremor, which appears when the hands are at rest. Over 80% of Parkinson’s patients experience tremor.

Tremor is embarrassing and can be troublesome for patients. It restrains them from performing daily life tasks like writing, dressing, and eating.

In the last couple of years, efforts have been made to develop devices to counteract the effects of tremor. One such a device is Emma watch. It helps the patients to regain the power of writing and drawing. The watch produces a vibration that disrupts a feedback loop mechanism between the brain and the hand that activates tremor.

What is it?

Emma watch is a wrist-worn device that helps Parkinson’s patient to overcome the effects of tremors in hands.

The device is named after Emma Lawton, a young graphic designer, and creative director. She is one of that 2 % of patients who were diagnosed with Parkinson’s at a very young age. After diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 29, Emma was afraid of losing her job because of continue tremors in her hands. She was not able to draw and even couldn’t write her name properly. This inspired her friend Haiyan Zhang to design a device that could help her to write and draw normally.

Haiyan Zhang is the innovation director at Microsoft Research. Together with her team, she managed to design a device in the form of a wristwatch that helped Emma to write again.

The early model of the product was unveiled at the Microsoft Build 2017 conference. The device is in the prototype stage and is being tested on other patients of Parkinson’s disease.

Who can use it?

Emma watch is primarily designed for people with Parkinson’s disease. It helps them to reduce their tremors and perform daily tasks more effectively. The device may also benefit those suffering from essential tremor. However, there is no evidence of testing it on people with essential tremor at the moment.

How does it work?

The precise mechanism by which the Emma watch alleviates the tremor effects is not fully understood. It is considered that it works by creating a vibration cue that distracts the brain from creating the tremor.

The inside of the watch is packed with small vibrating motors. These motors produce vibration in a certain pattern which disrupts the pathway between the brain and the hand that triggers the tremor.

It makes the patient forget about the tremor, even though the tremor is there but no longer felt by the patient.

When Emma used it for the first time, she realized that her hand was still shaking but she couldn’t feel the effects.

Haiyan’s team at the Microsoft research is working with neurologists to explore the neurological pathways activated in the brain that caused the watch to reduce the tremor.

Final words

Although Emma watch doesn’t cure the tremor, it can be an evolutionary aid for reducing tremor. This will allows Parkinson’s patients to regain their ability to perform their daily tasks.

Project Emma is now working to imply the same technology to develop devices that could prevent other symptoms of diseases like the slowness of movement, stiffness, and problem with gait.


Disclaimer: The information shared here should not be taken as medical advice. The opinions presented here are not intended to treat any health conditions. For your specific medical problem, consult with your health care provider.

26 thoughts on “Emma Watch: A Device to Reduce Tremor in Parkinson’s Patients”

  1. Hi my name is Patrick Fernandez.
    I have been suffering with Parkinson’s July 16th 2016, I’ve seen some videos about this watch and I’m very interested. Is this for sale?
    If so how can I get one?

    • Hi Patrick, sorry to hear about your condition. Emma watch is still in the research prototype stage. I’ll keep updating as soon as it’s available for sale.

  2. My mom has been in contact to get one of these watches for $2000. Insurance, Medicare will not cover any cost, so it is out of pocket. If it helps, so be it, but I would like to see some reviews before such a large purchase. The watch also looks to be a large man’s watch, which I wish were made for women also.

    • The watch is primarily designed for Parkinson’s tremor. We don’t have data indicating that this watch could also help people with dystonia.

  3. I built an Emma Watch and tried it out to see if it would lessen my left hand tremor symptom from PD. I carefully duplicated the parts and stimulation patters shown in videos of the device.

    It didn’t work at all on me no matter what pattern or intensity that I tried.

    I’ve communicated with others who also built replicas of the Emma Watch. It didn’t work for them either.

    In fact, the only person that it seems to work on is Emma herself. Despite Microsoft’s ballyhooing the device since 2016, I haven’t found any evidence of it working on anyone else.

    I’m concerned that many PD sufferers are waiting for this miraculous device which may prove more of a publicity stunt.

    • thanks for your comments. We tried to contact the developer of Emma watch but unfortunately didn’t succeed. Also, tried to find the latest development/information about Emma watch’s project but no new information is available. We’ve now serious doubt on the availability of this product on the market. Yes, it seems like it was more like a publicity stunt. We’ll keep in touch and inform you as soon as another similar device comes on the market.

    • We have been trying to contact the developers of Emma watch many times but unfortunately didn’t get any response about the launch of this product. We’ll let you know when we get any updates.

      Thanks for your comment.

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