"Never settle for less than your dreams.
Somewhere, sometime, someday, somehow, you'll find them

- Danielle Steel, Bittersweet.

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Monday, December 1, 2014

Gadget of the Week - Liftware Smart Spoon

Finally, it is December guys!

30 more days and 2014 will be history!

That aside, this is the month when we start realizing we are running out of days if the resolutions made 11 months ago are anything to go by. The good news, however, is that it's never too late to set things right.

Throughout December, the gadgets we feature will be those technological marvels whose core objective is to make life better, even bearable for the disadvantaged. We find it necessary to deviate from our usual smartphones, tablets and computers, in the belief that there is no better time to celebrate technology that enhances the quality of life for those in distress among us.

Today, our weekly gadget will be Google Smart Spoons. Yes, spoons!

 In September 2014, Google announced that it had acquired Lift Labs, a start-up that built a smart spoon for those with tremors that impede eating, especially victims of Parkinson's disease. This acquisition, noted Forbes, was yet another effort to build on Google's Life Sciences in its biotech division.

The Liftware smart spoon is now being developed and produced at Google X.

Where it stands out

The smart spoon works by detecting the tremor in the user's hands and using stabilizing technology, it is able to detect and 'correct' the tremor that would otherwise result in spillage of food before it reaches the mouth.

This is achieved by vibrations that counter a patient's tremor.

Here is how Liftware works:

Lift Labs explains more in this video:

Expert Reviews

The New York Times bits blog features a promotional video for Lift Labs that shows how Liftware works.

Given that Google CEO Larry Page has seen firsthand the travail occasioned by Parkinson's, it is worth noting that his dedication to the smart spoon development can only result in a better quality of life for those afflicted by the disease.
..the push to fight neurodegenerative diseases may also be a personal cause for Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who spends much of his time on Google X projects. Brin's mother has Parkinson's, and he's said he has a genetic mutation that gives him a higher chance of developing the disease himself.

The NDTV gadgets report on the Liftware smart spoon notes that other adaptive devices have been developed to help people with tremors such as rocker knives, weighted utensils and pen grips.
The technology senses how a hand is shaking and makes instant adjustments to stay balanced. In clinical trials, the Liftware spoons reduced shaking of the spoon bowl by an average of 76 percent.

When CNET contacted Lift Labs, this is the statement that was issued:
Lift Labs' "tremor-canceling" technology could "improve quality of life for millions of people." The company also said it is looking for new ways to use an "understanding and management" of neurodegenerative diseases.

User Opinions

Here are some reviews on Amazon:

Eric Hendrix says:
All I can say is, excellent engineering! I'm completely at a loss - I really never knew such technology existed in this form factor. It really is a truly amazing piece of machinery. My wife and I still giggle watching it do it's thing to keep my peas onboard...

Lynn, however, complains about the size of the handle:
Sent this to my father as a gift. The handle is size of a computer mouse! It is not able to use it and we have requested a return authorization.

Kelly Kemp is certainly impressed and writes this:
This is definitely a MUST HAVE for anyone dealing with tremors! For once I can eat my meals and not wear them. I had Chinese food yesterday and as usual with a regular spoon, it went all over unless I used two hands to hold it. Today I brought the spoon to work and am now eating my leftovers with one hand and not one piece falling all over the place. This is absolutely incredible. I can eat soup finally too!

This is the best invention ever! Can't wait for the fork. I am so grateful to you all for creating this and making my life just one step easier.

Pricing and Availability

A Liftware smart spoon costs $295.
More information is available on the Lift Labs online store.

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This past weekend was an end-of-month weekend and many, oblivious to the harmful effects that excessive drinking of alcohol has both on your body and your brain, did indulge.
From shouting "Cheers to the freaking weekend" last Friday, we just hope you haven't woken up today asking, "Kweli jana kuliendaje?"