Esprit Venture Challenge: Stride Tech Medical
About Stride Tech Medical
We’re Stride Tech, and we’re here to make walkers sexy.
Walkers, while widely used, have seen little disruption since their conception in the late sixties. We aim to address the growing senior walker market through innovative technology and relentless customer satisfaction.
Each year, over one million seniors purchase a wheeled walker or rollator, hoping to increase their mobility. However, in comparison to other mobility devices, seniors who use a walker are seven times more likely to be injured from a fall. This is due in part to many preventable, addressable problems within the senior walker space.
In fact, 80% of participants we interviewed obtained a rolling walker without consultation with a medical professional. This means not only are they purchasing walkers that don't fit them correctly, but they are also never taught how to use their walkers correctly. Incorrect walker use causes a senior to hunch over and shuffle their feet. These behaviors are incredibly dangerous, as they train the body and balance systems to walk with its center of gravity over the walker, instead of over the senior’s feet. Now this is all well and dandy when a senior is using their walker. However, walkers are not going to be there 100% of the time.
Most falls occurs while in unassisted, transitional movements. Those little tasks such as grabbing a ringing phone or a glass of water that seems silly to grab a walker for. If seniors are continually relying on support from their walkers, in combination with using them incorrectly, they are left more and more vulnerable during these inevitable, but pivotal movements.
These are devices a senior may end up using the rest of their life. In the best case, they are given ten minutes of instruction on how to use it. In the worst case, they purchase one unknowing of the need for fit, function, or form. There is a gap between the medical and clinical best practices of walker use and the compliance and knowledge of the seniors themselves.
Now, if only there were a solution…
Our product is a walker attachment that integrates the physical therapy interventions of correct walker use and the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) to build predictive models of fall risk. Users, loved ones, and care givers may more easily train correct walker use, record usage, and integrate preventative therapy measures into everyday activities.
The system is split into two parts: the first gives immediate biofeedback to seniors on how well they are using their walker, and the second uses machine learning to track mobility and behavioral data to eventually predict falls.
The biofeedback is designed after what most physical therapists agree is correct, healthy walker use: little to no weight on the handles and walking with the hips centered within the device. We use small, embedded sensors that attach to the walker within the handles and frame. Grip covers over the handles vibrate when the user applies too much weight or begins jutting their hips out behind them, reminding them to walk with a healthy stance. (Kind of like newer cars with steering wheels that vibrate when you drift out of a lane.) We worked extensively with everyone from biomechanics experts on CU’s campus to over twenty physical therapists to over thirty seniors to design our initial prototype. Excitingly, for one beta tester,who used the biofeedback system for four days, she was able to reduce these dangerous walker use habits by 94%. (Whoop whoop!)
The second part, still under development, utilizes IoT connection to track behavioral and mobility data. We can remotely monitor when and how often a senior is using their walker, how often they are exceeding a recommended weight threshold or hunching over, and how asymmetrical their weight bearing may be. While not fully developed, we aim to utilize machine learning to alert when a concerning trend may be occurring - from increased wandering to decreased mobility. With enough data, we aim to predict falls before they happen.
For mom and dad this means increased peace of mind, knowing when and where their aging parent is walking, and if they are getting better or worse. For grandma and grandpa, it means easing the stigma of walker use, so no one looks like that, “old granny all hunched over shuffling everywhere.” (To quote Ethyl on why she didn't want to get on a walker in the first place.)
Ultimately, Stride Tech seniors walk with increased safety, decreased fall risk, and feel younger while doing it.
Now what’s sexier than that?
Click here to view their website.
About the Founders
Timothy Visos-Ely, CEO: Tim originally conceived of Smart Step after his grandmother had a devastating fall, despite having a walker. He brings a combination of engineering and entrepreneurship experience into his role as CEO. He is passionate about user centered design, merging business and engineering, and is endless flirted with by the various senior ladies we have been fortunate enough to test with.
Humsini Acharya, Testing and Research Lead: Humsini brings her background as a researcher in CU’s Neuromechanics Laboratory to meld the biomechanics of walker use and the design of SmartStep. She is a testing masochist that enjoys ruthlessly defining both the technical, qualitative success metrics of the physical product and the qualitative interaction it has with the end user. Her favorite website is PubMed.
Andrew Plum, Hardware Engineering: Andrew brings his wide array of engineering experiences to the integration of SmartStep’s electrical, computational, testing, and mechanical systems. Not only is he a CAD ninja, but he is also the only one of us able to pop a wheelie on a walker. It’s invaluable skills like these that make him the Swiss Army Knife of the team.