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New device developed at UW may help recognize early signs of Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s

Researchers at UW worked alongside their colleagues at Cornell University to develop the Fingertrak
Researchers at UW worked alongside their colleagues at Cornell University to develop the Fingertrak(UW)
Published: Jul. 27, 2020 at 10:12 AM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Researchers at UW have helped develop new device that may be able to diagnosis diseases that might otherwise go undetected.

“It turns out how we move our hand and how we use our hand to interact with objects can tell us a lot about our health condition,” said Dr. Yin Li, associate professor in the Department of Biostatistics and Medical Informatics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “I personally feel really excited about this because it’s the first technology of its kind,”

The device is called Fingertrak. The device sits on the wrist and can map a moving hand using four tiny cameras.

“So, these cameras are the size of a little pea and those are thermal cameras that take images of the contours of the hand and we develop this model that stitch these images together,” said Dr. Li.

Dr. Li hopes the device can tip off doctors to early signs of Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease.

“Certain diseases will have an early sign of degradation of motor skills,” he said. “I hope in the future that this device can be something like a fitness tracker but for elderly people. Instead of tracking your steps, we are really trying to monitor how they use their hand movement and to detect any indicators to diseases,”

In addition to identifying potential health issues, the Fingertrak may also be able to translate sign language.

“The idea is to use this device to automatically translate sign language. By tracking the fingers and hand movement, we can interpret these gestures into the English language. Then maybe using a microphone to really convert that into audio,”

UW developed this technology along with researchers from Cornell University.

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