We started off the studio by learning all about the brain, and therapies for the brain. I had never had any brain science before whatsoever. It was a LOT to take in all at once. We then broke off into groups to do brain research. I paired up with Nathaniel and Sam.
We had a list of neurological disorders to get us jump started on what we wanted to do for our project. We ended up straying from the list, and got interested in Phantom Limb Disorder.
Phantom Limb Disorder occurs in 60-80% of amputees. It is when amputees experience feelings in the limb they no longer have. They are convinced that their old limb is in an uncomfortable position, or they think that there old limb has an itch, warmth or tingling. This occurs because the nerve endings where the limb was amputated send messages to the brain, tricking the brain into thinking that there is still a limb there.
The current solution for Phantom Limb Disorder is Mirror Therapy. Say you are missing a leg, but feel you have an extremely annoying itch on that leg. You would put a mirror in between your legs, facing your non-amputated leg. Looking into the mirror, it would look like your leg is still there. By simply making it look like someone is scratching your leg in the mirror, you can sooth your itch by tricking your brain.
Our first idea was to make a digital prosthetic for the amputee. The amputee will stand in front of a camera, or Kinect, and the screen will reflect back on them a limb where they lack one. The limb will be a reflection of their opposite limb, but will be mirrored and controlled separately. The concept is to reassure the person that their limb isn’t in a weird position or on fire or something. The person will be able to see an image of their old limb back, but slowly that limb will fade out to the prosthetic they have now. As the Prosthetic appears we may have the background change to something really awesome, to show some positive aspects of having a prosthetic limb.
Our second idea was to make an app that is like mirror therapy on the go. The user will point it down at their amputated leg, and it will show their leg back in one piece as they walk. There will be different skins that the leg can be such as, skeleton, muscles, and their typical skin tone or clothing
The app will start off by verbally giving you a pace to walk at (“left, right, left, right”) and then you will start to walk with the app. Once you start walking the verbal cues will be replaced by normal footstep sounds. The camera of the device should be pointed down as you walk, showing your legs. The app shows you a full leg as you walk that is layered over your prosthetic leg. It reassures you and your brain that your leg is walking, and not in a weird position or on fire or something. During each session with the app, the leg will fade out, until at the end of the session, it is just you walking at the pace it gives you. The app is supposed to slowly lean you away from Phantom Limb Syndrome and teach your brain to accept the loss of the limb.
We realized that making an app was above our level of expertise. We considered using Aurasma, an augmented reality app to simulate the limbs, but it just didn’t work out in the time frame we had.
We ended up completely starting over on Day 5, and dropping the phantom limb entirely. The phantom limb concept was not a big enough problem for all of us to tackle, and our solutions were above our level of skills.
After switching gears, we decided to tackle the problem of stress. We originally targeted autistic kids as our users, because they can’t always tell when they are getting stressed out, but then we expanded our audience to everyone, because everyone gets stressed.
We made a device that monitors your stress levels. We used a skin conductivity sensor, which can pick up subtle changes in your skin conductivity by how much you’re sweating, and can tell how stressed a person is. The skin conductivity sensor is the same sensor that is used in a lie detector test. We wanted to make the conductivity sensor disguised as a bracelet, but unfortunately we didn’t time it out with the 3D printer, and didn’t actually make it a bracelet. We also made an app that goes along with it that can track the stress levels, and intervene to help calm you down when it senses you are getting stressed.
We made the skin conductivity sensor out of tin foil, velcro and an arduino. We had trouble receiving information from the sensor. The arduino sends the numbers from the sensor to a program called Processing, which visualizes the information. We were having trouble getting Processing to talk to the arduino, and to display the information. We ended up deciding not to use Processing. Once we had made the skin conductivity sensor and proved it worked, we made a few more sensors that were more compact. Once we had the sensor smaller we took the dimensions of the electronics for the bracelet, and start designing it on Rhino.
We designed the bracelet to have a locking mechanism similar to the locks they have on hotel doors. Our design did not end up working out because the locks were too small, and couldn’t print in the detail it required. We didn’t time out the bracelet with the end of our project. The bracelet ended up needing about four hours to print. Unfortunately because of the time it took we couldn’t actually put everything together on the bracelet before our presentation.
We also designed an app to receive the information from the bracelet. We created the app on the MIT App Inventor. The app inventor is similar to a program called Scratch. It has blocks that you drag and fit together to program. Our app has two pages, the home screen and the setup page.
On the home page, it has a slider to show you your stress levels, and a button that can take you to the Setup page. On the Setup page, you have the option to connect to Bluetooth to get the information from the arduino. You also have the option to choose your settings, such as how you want the app to interact when you get too stressed. Currently if you get too stressed, the app can either send a text message to you or someone else alerting them of your stress, or the app can start to play music to calm you down.
We ended up spending one week on our final project. This was a difficult project to break into enough work for three people.