How a wearable computer mouse can help people with dementia
Meet our Breqlab team! We are computer programmers using cutting edge technology to help make daily activities easier for people with dementia. After 18 months of hard work, we have finally completed our vision: a wearable mouse that helps people with limited/impaired hand movements or tremors use computers.
The inspiration for the mouse came from Dr. Martin Labrecque, CEO of BreqLabs. “My grandmother had dementia and arthritis, which made fine finger movements tough. I wanted to connect with her online but tablets, keyboards and mice were too difficult for her. So I made it my mission to build a replacement mouse that eliminates these physical barriers. With this wearable mouse, someone can put on the glove and have full control of a computer, like having a magic wand!” said Dr. Labrecque.
In September 2014, an early prototype was ready. We decided to take it to DementiaHack, a weekend competition to design a computer program that would assist in the self or community management of dementia.
We turned our mouse into a music therapy game, after learning that music for people with dementia can reduce anxiety, depression and agitation. Participants would look at the screen, lower their hand on screen using the mouse to hit a drum and a sound would be made. As the game progressed, more drums were added to the screen, each giving a different sound. The game was easy and fun to play.
“This combination of both physical and mental stimulation was our goal after speaking with professionals and two amazing individuals (Brenda and Bea) with dementia. We observed that they wanted a product that was fun, simple and intuitive to use. None of the flashy colors or blinking lights!” said Jigdel Kuyee, COO of BreqLabs.
With feedback from both DementiaHack and people with mobility impairments, BreqLabs constructed their prototype as a three-finger wearable mouse. It works on all computers, does not require any software installation and is wireless, thus allowing for free hand movements.
“We are planning to reach out to more developers to create specific applications tailored to people with dementia. I knew that we really had nailed down the solution when I saw my cousin smile while using a laptop. He lost movement in half his body due to an accident. We hope to bring more smiles and we are very excited about the future,” said Jigdel.
As Canada’s aging population grows and seeks an active lifestyle both online and in the physical world, any solution that helps and encourages seniors to maintain their level of activity should be welcomed. Research has shown that having a mentally active and healthy lifestyle can help lower the risk of dementia and prevent future declines if you have dementia already.
BreqLabs completed its formal launch of this product at MaRS on November 5, 2014 and has begun accepting pre-orders. If you are interested in testing out their product or want to recommend someone who could benefit from this product, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.