Parkinson’s disease can cause tremors so severe that patients can’t write or eat properly. It is a disease that is renowned for its relentless physical symptoms.
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Now Haiyan Zhang, a Microsoft innovation director, has invented the Emma Watch, a watch that when worn on the wrist can alleviate the hand tremors that many patients experience.

The inspiration behind the invention

Zhang was inspired to invent the Emma Watch after she met a graphic designer called Emma Lawton in London, someone who was only 29 when she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

When Zhang noticed that Emma’s constant tremors made her work life difficult, she started developing prototypes until she designed something that worked. The first of its kind.

The first watch of its kind

Microsoft’s Emma Watch has been specifically designed to help ease Parkinson’s tremors in the hand. It works due to its tiny motors which counteract the tremors, generating an equal amount of force against them and helping to keep movement steady.

As soon as Lawton tried on the watch for the first time, both she and Zhang were astonished at how much it helped alleviate her tremors. Lawton could write her name, draw straight lines and rectangles, basically whatever she wanted.

The watch became an instant life changer for Lawton’s graphic design work and quality of life.

A commitment to helping others

Zhang had this to say about her invention: “As someone who works in technology and thinks about new kinds of things, I don’t really see the impact of that on people’s lives or on an individual. For me, it was so powerful to see her life made better.”

Lawton adds: “To be able to write your name is a basic human right,” Lawton said. “To be able to do it and do it neatly is really special to me now. It’s empowering. It made me feel that I could do anything.”

Although the Emma Watch is currently the only device of its kind, Zhang and her Microsoft team are developing other devices that detect and counteract other Parkinson’s symptoms, including body rigidity, slow walking and falling too.

Zhang is an asset to the Microsoft company, just as Microsoft are to innovative technology solutions.