IBM Develops Fingernail Sensor That Uses AI to Track Patient Health, Disease Progressions

The wearable wireless device continuously measures how a person’s fingernail bends and moves, and it is an integral indicator of grip power.

Although skin-based detectors can help capture things like motion, the health of muscles and neural cells, and may also reflect the seriousness of a individual’s emotional state, these can often lead to problems, including infection with older patients.

Nevertheless, the new system utilizes signals from the fingernail bends such as the tactile feeling of temperature, pressure, surface textures.

“Our claws deform – bend and move – in stereotypic ways when we use them for grasping, grasping, and even flexing and extending our fingers. This deformation is generally on the order of single digit microns rather than observable to the naked eye,” said Katsuyuki Sakuma, by IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center in New York.

The new apparatus, reported in the journal Scientific Reports, is composed of pressure gauges attached to the fingernail and a little computer which samples pressure values, collects accelerometer information and communicates with a smartwatch.

The watch also runs machine learning models to speed bradykinesia, tremor, and dyskinesia that are symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

“By pushing computation to the conclusion of our fingers, we have discovered a new use for our claws by detecting and characterising their subtle movements,” Sakuma said.

“With the detector, we could derive health state insights and empower a new sort of user interface. This job has also served as the inspiration for a new apparatus modelled on the arrangement of the fingertip that may one day assist quadriplegics communicate,” Sakuma noted.

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