New tech could diagnose diseases like Parkinson’s by interpreting how quickly and often you blink

Researchers have developed a device that has the potential to diagnose neurological and autoimmune diseases by monitoring and interpreting eyelid movements.

The device, designed by researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, attaches to glasses, and was first used to diagnose the disease blepharospasm dystonia, which is characterised by involuntary contraction of the muscles responsible for closing the eyes.

In using the device to spot blepharospasm dystonia, the researchers found a statistically significant quantitative relationship between a person’s eyelid pattern and the disease.

The tech was then used to examine the effect of Botox injections, the conventional treatment for the disease, and it was found that within 15 minutes contractions decrease and patients’ blinking rates begin to match the patterns associated with healthy people.

Image courtesy of The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology

“Eyelid motion provides us with meaningful information about the health of a patient,” said Adi Hanuka, a doctoral student at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

“This motion can indicate not only eye diseases, but also neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, and autoimmune diseases such as Grave’s. We developed a device that can be installed on the standard refraction glasses used in eye tests.”

According to the researchers, the device has the potential to diagnose every disease that is expressed neurologically, including many ocular and systemic such as Ptosis, Thyroid eye disease, Parkinson’s disease, Myasthenia Gravis, and neurologic diseases such as third and seventh cranial nerve palsy.

Lead researcher Adi Hanuka. Image courtesy of The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology

“Along with designing the product for purposes of commercialisation, we are working in several directions: developing the device as a platform for multidisciplinary research on various topics such as the effect of emotions on blinking patterns; eyelid communication amongst the paralyzed; and automatic diagnosis through machine learning and based on a computerized comparison between the specific monitoring and an extensive database,” said Hanuka.

In order to define the eyelid motion patterns, which includes blinking speed and frequency, of healthy people, measurements of approximately 100 subjects were collected.Eyelid motions were then analysed using a specifically tailored signal-processing algorithm.

Over the past two years, the device has been used in clinical trials at Haemek Medical Center in Afula, Israel.

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An autonomous drone startup founded by former MIT researchers has today launched its R1, a fully autonomous flying camera that follows its subjects through dense and challenging environments.

In a promotional video, launched to introduce the autonomous camera, R1 can be seen following an athlete as she parkours her way through dense woodland.

The drone’s makers Skydio have explained that the camera combines artificial intelligence, computer vision, and advanced robotics and works by anticipating how people move, so R1 can make intelligent decisions about how to get the smoothest, most cinematic footage in real-time.

“The promise of the self-flying camera has captured people’s imaginations, but today’s drones still need to be flown manually for them to be useful,” said Adam Bry, CEO and co-founder of Skydio.

“We’ve spent the last four years solving the hard problems in robotics and AI necessary to make fully autonomous flight possible. We’re incredibly excited about the creative possibilities with R1, and we also believe that this technology will enable many of the most valuable drone applications for consumers and businesses over the coming years.”

Launching today is the Frontier Edition of R1, which is aimed at athletes, adventurers, and creators.

This version of R1 is powered by the Skydio Autonomy Engine, enabling it to see and understand the world around it so that it can fly safely at speeds of upto 25mph while avoiding obstacles.

The autonomous drone is fitted with 13 cameras, which gives it the ability to map and understand the world in real-time, allowing it to be fully autonomous and independently capture footage that in Skydio’s words “once required a Hollywood film crew” and will “enable a new type of visual storytelling”.

The R1 “Frontier Edition” is available for order now on Skydio’s website for $2,499.