Top 10 Health and Wellbeing startups in the last 12 months
When Google Glass debuted in 2013, the usual public scepticism that surrounds any new tech seemed be at a record high. In some ways, it was an appropriate response to the cumbersome (and dorky) device, which, for the general user, did not justify itself with its functionality. But this past year we have seen many new developments in smart glasses that have the potential to benefit those with niche needs.
For five percent of the world’s population who have hearing loss, the transcribing glasses from Frants Innovators could have a huge impact on their lives. The device, which can be clipped onto any pair of spectacles, uses Siri-esque voice recognition to translate language in real-time, displaying the text on a small screen in the corner of the user’s vision. We also saw Autism Glass, which uses artificial intelligence to decipher facial expressions and provide social cues for autistic users.
As 3D printing becomes more accessible, options for prosthetics have broadened significantly for those who need them. Startup Open Bionics launched three superhero themed robotic hands that aimed to help amputated youngsters make a physical and emotional recovery from their unfortunate losses — instead of doing boring physical therapy, they can train to become superheroes.
Many industries are exploring new uses of virtual reality, but the most impressive feats are arguably coming from health care. Deepstream VR has created “COOL!”, a first-person shooter game that aims to distract burn victims from the pain of getting their wounds cleaned or their skin grafted, by immersing them in an icy, snowy atmosphere.
We also saw Virtual Reality Cave, a game that puts recovering addicts in high-stimulus environments, so they can learn coping mechanisms. Departing slightly from VR, the research hospital St Jude recently launched Dream Adventures, where employees visit various destinations as requested by the hospitalized children, who can virtually experience the travel via a 360 degree camera, and ask questions and make requests in real-time.
Stroke patients often lose the power of speech and vision, and many are left isolated, unable to communicate with loved ones. Using a Brain Computer Interface, I.am.here is a mobile app that translates paralyzed victims’ emotions into simple statements, such as “I’m so happy” or “I feel bored.”
As medical tech advances, it is easier than ever for consumers to know about their own specific health needs. This opens up a whole new area of ultra-personalization, which innovative businesses can now offer their customers. At restaurant The Third Floor in Bangkok, menus are organized by blood type, so diners can choose a meal that will best complement their specific dietary needs.
Users who are interested in their own DNA can also browse the Genome Compass — an app founded by gene sequencing scientists, which will deliver news and knowledge relevant to their unique genetic makeup. OpenBiome is another business making the most of health personalization. The startup enables users to create and store samples of their own microbial community, so that in the case of infections, it can be used to repopulate their own unique gut bacteria.
There can still be a stigma attached to visiting a sexual health clinic, and this leads to infected but sexually active people spreading diseases instead of getting treated. At-home tests are being made more available, but Hoope’s wearable makes the process quick and painless. Fitting onto users’ thumbs, the device will rapidly run blood tests of the four most common and curable STDs, and send results to an app.
While the majority of discussions relating to national health care systems centre around infrastructure and funding, most of the innovations we’re seeing on Springwise are geared towards finding “bottom up” solutions. MakerNurse is a great example of this. The initiative mobilizes the creative and problem solving potential of nurses — who are often the first point of contact for patient difficulties — by providing a workspace full of materials that they can use to invent functional hospital equipment.
It wouldn’t be an innovation count down without the ever-present robotic fleets that now populate our skies. Just like 3D printing, VR and other emerging tech, drones are being experimented with in many different industries. Carried out by the United Nations Population Fund, UAVs are now supplying condoms, birth control pills, and other medical supplies to the Upper East Region of Ghana.
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