One Cupertino high schooler just raised the bar for science fair projects everywhere — so forget about the dry ice and potato clocks. After winning the California State Science Fair as a freshman, Utkarsh Tandon has turned his first place project into a "smart" ring to help Parkinson's patients.
His version of the humble fashion accessory uses machine learning to track and organize patients' symptomatic movements in order to generate a more complete picture of their condition. He launched a Kickstarter for the ring on the first of January and it raised more than double its $1,500 goal. "Parkinson's Disease affects 10 million people world wide making it impossible to treat every person with a sufficient level of care." Tandon says in a YouTube video describing the ring's importance, "It therefore becomes increasingly difficult to accurately prescribe medications and get quick feedback about how well medications are working." This monitoring device may be an important step towards improving Parkinson's patients' overall well being.
His product is called OneRing, named in honor of the magical ring at the center of J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1954 classic The Lord of the Rings. And while it doesn't grant invisibility, this OneRing is very powerful.
Similar to a fit bit bracelet, the 3-D printed plastic ring contains a Bluetooth microchip. Using Tandon's algorithm, the ring senses and classifies the severity of the wearer's movements. The motions are categorized into three levels of severity: dyskinesia, bradykinesia, and tremor. The data is sent to an iOS app, which displays time-stamped analytics in each daily report. It can even send it directly to the patient's physician, allowing for better monitoring of symptoms and improved accuracy in treatment.
Tandon has been interested in helping people suffering from Parkinson's disease since viewing a YouTube video of Mohammad Ali lighting the 1996 Olympic torch. Seeing Ali suffering from tremors was an emotional moment that sparked curiosity in then 10-year-old Tandon. Since seventh grade he has been successfully entering local science fairs. In a 2013 project he aimed to create a "wearable personal assistant for Alzheimers Patients" which would include a GPS to track their movements. After being taught about machine learning in a computer science class, Tandon turned his attention back to Parkinson's and developed a prototype that strapped to patients' wrists and collected movement data. In 2015 he volunteered at a nearby Parkinson's institute, and after testing his prototype, decided to make it smaller and less cumbersome. He won the state science fair, and as part of his award Tandon was given a grant from the UCLA Brain Research Institute. With his starter funds in place, he decided at the age of 15 to start his own company around OneRing.
Talking to FastCodesign Tandon says his next challenge is to make the design of the ring more fashionable, "It has to be something people want to wear. I want to make it look good while it's doing the diagnosis in the background." He is also testing ways to create a one size fits all band using flexible polymer material. If this smart ring is any sign of what's to come, the future of wearables in the medical field is bright.