How Tiny Fingernail Sensors and AI Can Help Clinicians to Monitor Health and Disease Progression

This is where the potential of a fingernail sensor comes into play. We interact with objects throughout the day using our hands, such as the tactile sensing of pressure, temperature, surface textures and more. Our team realized it might be possible to derive interesting signals from how the fingernail bends throughout the course of a day, as we use our fingers to interact with our environment, and tap into the power of AI and machine learning to analyze and derive valuable insights from that data.

By: Stephen Heisig and Katsuyuki Sakuma, IBM Research

Grip strength is a useful metric in a surprisingly broad set of health issues. It has been associated with the effectiveness of medication in individuals with Parkinson's disease, the degree of cognitive function in schizophrenics, the state of an individual’s cardiovascular health, and all-cause mortality in geriatrics.

At IBM Research, one of our ongoing challenges is to obtain a better understanding of the effects of diseases on an individual’s overall health, as well as how AI can help clinicians to monitor individuals in their natural environments, and potentially point to indicators and clues into the progression of a patient’s conditions.

In new research published in Scientific Reports on December 21st, our team details a first-of-a-kind "fingernail sensor" prototype to help monitor human health. The wearable, wireless device continuously measures how a person's fingernail bends and moves, which is a key indicator of grip strength.

The project began as an attempt to capture the medication state of people with Parkinson's disease. Getting a new therapy approved requires quantifying how people on the therapy are doing in relation to controls. The majority of people with Parkinson’s are older, an age group with increasingly brittle, friable skin.

Comprised of skin, nails and hair, the integumentary system covers most of our bodies. Its primary purpose is to protect our internal components from pathogens, toxins, ultraviolet radiation, dehydration, and changes in temperature. It also provides a structure for sensory receptors of the somatosensory system of neurons across our bodies.

One method to measure a disease’s progression is to attach skin-based sensors to capture things like motion, the health of muscles and nerve cells, or changes in sweat gland activity, which can reflect the intensity of a person’s emotional state. But with older patients, such skin-based sensors can often cause problems, including infection.

This is where the potential of a fingernail sensor comes into play. We interact with objects throughout the day using our hands, such as the tactile sensing of pressure, temperature, surface textures and more. Our team realized it might be possible to derive interesting signals from how the fingernail bends throughout the course of a day, as we use our fingers to interact with our environment, and tap into the power of AI and machine learning to analyze and derive valuable insights from that data.

One of the functions of human fingernails is to focus the finger-tip pulp on the object being manipulated. It turns out that our fingernails deform – bend and move -- in stereotypic ways when we use them for gripping, grasping, and even flexing and extending our fingers. This deformation is usually on the order of single digit microns and not visible to the naked eye. However, it can easily detected with strain gauge sensors. For context, a typical human hair is between 50 and 100 microns across and a red blood cell is usually less than 10 microns across.

Since nails are so tough, we decided to glue a sensor system to a fingernail without worrying about any of the issues associated with attaching to skin. Our dynamometer experiments demonstrated we could extract a consistent enough signal from the nail to give good grip force prediction in a variety of grip types.

Photo: Fingernail Sensors (credit: IBM)

We also found it is possible to deconvolve subtle finger movements from nail deformation. We were able to differentiate typical daily activities which all involve pronation and supination such as turning a key, opening a doorknob or using a screwdriver. An even more subtle activity is finger writing, and we trained a neural network to produce a very good accuracy (.94)  at detecting digits written by a finger wearing the sensor.

Our system consists of strain gauges attached to the fingernail and a small computer that samples strain values, collects accelerometer data and communicates with a smart watch. The watch also runs machine learning models to rate bradykinesia, tremor, and dyskinesia which are all symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

By pushing computation to the end of our fingers we've found a new use for our nails by detecting and characterizing their subtle movements. With the sensor, we can derive health state insights and enable a new type of user interface. This work has also served as the inspiration for a new device modeled on the structure of the fingertip that could one day help quadriplegics communicate.

This blog originally appeared on IBM Research Blog.

Source: IBM

Comments

No comments to display.

Related posts

Toyota Mobility Foundation announces finalists in $4 million global Mobility Unlimited Challenge

The Challenge invited engineers, innovators, and designers from across the world to submit designs for game-changing technologies, incorporating intelligent systems, to improve the mobility and independence of people with lower-limb paralysis. Central to the Challenge is the importance of collaboration with end-users to develop devices which will integrate seamlessly into users’ lives and environments, while being comfortable and easy to use, enabling greater independence and increased participation in daily life.

PRIMA Call for Proposals: Bridging the gap between potential and actual irrigation performance in the Mediterranean

In the Mediterranean basin, water balances and water used for irrigation including irrigation performance is often lower than potential at the farm and at the water users association level. This gap is evident for average performance, but it is particularly important when the dispersion among farmers and their associations is considered. Attaining Sustainable Mediterranean irrigation requires to assess the real water balances in the area of irrigation, amount of water available for irrigation ensuring that water levels are environmentally safe for ecosystems and other needs. Furthermore, optimising irrigation performance requires to combine technological, managerial and governance innovations taking into account the availability, safety and quality of water resources, existing institutional arrangements, as well as crop agronomy planning.
Application Deadline in a month

PRIMA Call for Proposals: Agro-food Value Chain 2019

Proposals should focus on products with high added value, most exposed to fraud and valorise productions that have been discontinued but hold nutritional value and are important for biodiversity conservation. Proposal should also aim at creating trans-national networks of laboratories, validating and harmonizing protocols, sharing open-data on food products of the Mediterranean tradition, providing a robust support for certification and control bodies, and building capacity in key enabling technologies related to authenticity and traceability.
Application Deadline in a month

African Development Bank Group approves $25 million Equity Investment in Fund for Renewable Energy Projects in Africa

ARPF projects will focus on mature technologies including wind, solar PV, small to medium hydro, geothermal and biomass. These would include grid-connected independent power producers (“IPPs”), and decentralized energy projects (commercial & industrial solar, mini-grids and solar home systems companies). The Fund’s strategy is to prioritize projects with a clear timeline to financial close, with emphasis on de-risking early stage greenfield projects.

European call for proposals: Innovative utilisation of aquatic biomass and Novel aquaculture production systems

The proposals should seek to be complementary with or adding to other projects funded under FP7 and Horizon 2020, ERA-NETs, BBI JU or other funding schemes, both ongoing and recently finished. They should reflect awareness of the objectives of running projects in relevant fields to avoid overlap. Proposed projects must demonstrate industry involvement.
Application Deadline in 2 months

European call for proposals: Sustainable and Resilient agriculture for food and non-food systems

Based on the two previous calls, the FACCE SURPLUS partners decided to further advance their successful funding scheme with a third call of the initiative in order to complete the portfolio of projects and filling remaining research and funding gaps. Having in mind the research already conducted in FACCE SURPLUS projects, this call at the end of the initiative aims at further improving collaboration in the area of food and nonfood biomass production and transformation systems.
Application Deadline in 2 months

A Quick Look At The Latest Happenings In The Cloud Integration Market

As an emerging trend of technology the field of cloud Integration is steadily expanding. The global cloud Integration Market is growing approximately at a CAGR of 8% during 2018-2023 and it is expected to grow at a highest CAGR during the forecast period.

A Close Look At The Latest Research Trends Within The 3D Printing Metals Market

3D printing involves the creation of a 3 dimensional object by adding successive layers of a particular material one on top of each other until the overall object has been formed. Metals constitute one of the main materials used for 3D printing.

Call for Applications: Go Green in the City 2019

The Go Green in the City challenge is now entering its 9th year running and our 2019 edition is going to be even bigger, better and bolder! We are looking for students like you from around the world who are willing to put their skills and ideas to the test.
Application Deadline in 4 months