Zachary Samalonis, Abigail Balster, Jessica Monteleone
Freezing of gait (FOG) affects 70% of individuals in late stage Parkinson’s disease, and is characterized by a sudden cessation of gait and an inability to initiate steps. FOG occurs erratically causing anxiety and fear. This phenomenon can lead to complications such as falls, social isolation, and a loss of valued roles. GaitMate was designed to bridge the gap between research and the current market options for mitigation of FOG. Based on current literature, it was determined that a wearable device with a transverse laser and a metronome (both auditory and vibratory) would provide individuals with Parkinson’s disease a device to help decrease both the frequency and duration of FOG. GaitMate attaches to a belt or waistband by a flexible attachment band which decreases the need for fine motor skills for donning. The functional unit sits in the front and an adjustable laser projects a transverse line for an individual to aim their steps toward. When GaitMate detects that the wearer has frozen, a vibratory and auditory metronome begins to help the individual sync their movements to a beat, and begin walking again. If the wearer purposely stops, they can tap anywhere on the front of the device to eliminate the metronome from turning on. Although outcomes testing has not been completed, based on the research and ergonomic principles, we expect GaitMate to effectively lower the frequency of gait freezing and subsequent falls. By minimizing these episodes, individuals with Parkinson’s can engage more confidently in their valued roles, and the community at large.
GaitMate was also awarded the TREAT prize for “Technology Most Likely to Become Commercially Available”.