People who suffer from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) often experience a gradual decline in their ability to control their muscles and as a result, they could even face difficulties to communicate properly. And now, a team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has found a solution to this problem.
Researchers who took part in this study have developed a skin-like device that can be attached to the patient's face that is capable of measuring very small movements that include a twitch or smile.
Emotions of patients can be decoded
Using this advanced device, patients can communicate a variety of emotions effectively that includes 'I love you', and 'I am feeling hungry'. The device decodes these emotions after analyzing small movements of the patient's face.
According to researchers who carried out this study, this new device could act as a real helping hand to ALS patients who often fail to express their slightest emotion and need to others without using a bulky piece of equipment. Moreover, this device is like camouflage, and people will rarely notice that the patient has worn it.
"Not only are our devices malleable, soft, disposable, and light, they're also visually invisible. You can camouflage it and nobody would think that you have something on your skin," said Canan Dagdeviren, the LG Electronics Career Development Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT who led the study in a recent statement.
Stephen Hawking and ALS
Legendary theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking was also an ALS patient, and he had paid a visit to Harvard University in 2016. At that time, Dagdeviren was a research fellow there. Hawking was suffering from a slow-progressing form of ALS, and he used to communicate with the help of an infrared sensor capable of detecting the twitches of his cheek, which moved a cursor across rows and columns of letters.
Even though people can use this device to communicate, it demands huge equipment, and moreover, some of its results will not be accurate. Apart from this, most of the ALS patients eventually lose the ability to control their limbs, which makes it difficult for them to type. Using the new skin-like device, ALS patients can communicate in a natural way without using any bulky equipment.