The Emma Watch is a one of a kind product created by London-based designer Haiyan Zhang. She is the innovation director at Microsoft Research in Cambridge. As part of the BBC programme The Big Life Fix, Zhang was drafted to help creative director Emma Lawton with her case of Parkinson’s disease, an ailment that makes it difficult to write or draw.
It is estimated that Parkinson’s disease affects over 10 million people across the globe. It is a nervous disorder of the motor system that makes everyday tasks such as brushing teeth, typing or drawing a distressing ordeal with involuntary tremors.
Haiyan thought that a smartwatch may help restore Lawton’s control over her hands as much as possible. She theorised that a wrist-bound device comprised of several responsive vibrating cells could provide the stability that Lawton had started to lose.
Several prototypes later, the Emma Watch was created. Named after the person for which it was created, the device short-circuits the loss of nerve control between Lawton’s brain and arm muscles, countering the tremors of her hand in real time, thus creating balance.
Haiyan Zhang specialises in creating bespoke devices for people living with life-limiting conditions. While the Emma Watch is not slated to be manufactured at scale for everyone suffering with similar degrees of Parkinson’s, it does show how personal technology can be life-altering for the better.