The legendary boxer Mohammed Ali, succumbed to what he described as the longest and toughest bout: Parkinson disease. A neurological condition that is triggered by the degeneration of brain cells and the chemical signals responsible for muscles and movement control. The condition is characterized by body trembles and slow rigid muscular maneuverability.
Is there an answer?
Going against the tide and defying the sunset years which epidemiologists consider as a risk factor for Parkinson disease, Emma Lawton, become a victim at the tender age of 29. The majority of Parkinson patients are above 50 years of age. To compound matters, she is a graphic designer. Needless to point out that she needs to present her ideas on paper for the world to take notice. This is a herculean task bordering impossibility for a patient diagnosed with chronic Parkinson disease. The disease has robbed Emma the gift of sketching as well as writing. In her own words she describes it as an exercise in futility to attempt to draw and sketch straight lines under her present situation.
True to the definition of engineering by her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, that describes engineering as a science that ought to offer ingenious solutions to daily life challenges, Haiyan Zhang is tasked by the Big Life Fix to restore Emma’s ability to write and draw.
This mission to counteract Parkinson’s with the Emma device
Haiyan who works at Microsoft research Cambridge as an Innovation Director has her work cut out for her. Fuelled by Emma’s last plea of regaining control of her hand movements and consequently sign her name after a very long period. A period of trial and putting theory to practice begins with a pantograph and magnetic coins to create resistance to her shaking. Unfortunately it worsens the shaking according to Emma.
Haiyan’s eureka moment arrive upon borrowing on a past invention for tableware targeting the disabled: the liftware. Which operates by counteracting the patients’ vibration with equal opposing vibration force. Consequently stabilizing the victims’ shaking. That’s the working theory. Putting the aforementioned theory to practice for Emma was a different story.
Initial reports and test are very encouraging for Haiyan. The crude version of the device meant to stabilize Emma’s shaking proves to be a success. Prompting Haiyan to improve the prototype into a wristwatch-like device, christening it Emma. A befitting tribute to her patient Emma. By deliberately producing vibrations to counteract the vibrations instigated by Parkinson’s disease, Emma is on the path to regaining her ability sketch and write.
Three years down the line Emma is finally in a position to sign her name using the Emma device. A task which is considered ordinary for someone with functional motor neuron cells. To a Parkinson victim, it calls for a celebration. Fist point of call is her mother to break her the news that she can sign her name and sketch once again. Taking charge of her daily activities and more so her passion for designing.
The Emma device may not be fool-prove to Parkinson tremors, but it leaves a mark on Emma’s life and literary on her sketching paper.