Verily launches Liftware Level, a smart spoon to counteract uncontrolled movements

By Heather Mack
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Verily -- the Alphabet spinoff formerly known as Google Life Sciences -- has launched a new smart spoon that recognizes uncontrollable or unsteady hand movements at all times and automatically compensates, enabling people to eat without spilling.

The robotic device, Liftware Level, is the second offering from Liftware, a company devoted to developing tools to aid those with motor impairments that was acquired by Google in 2014. Level is the next step up from Steady, a spoon that stabilized itself for people with hand tremors. Level is more sophisticated and can counteract more erratic hand and arm movements that may be present in people with conditions such as cerebral palsy, Huntington’s Disease or spinal cord injury, who need assistance with daily tasks.

The electronic handle, which can accommodate a spoon or fork attachment, is held on by a strap and recognizes where the hand is at all times in space. It works to counteract any unwanted movements by bending accordingly, freeing the user to relax, while helping them to retain their independence. After use, the device plugs into a charging port. 

Liftware was originally created by mechanical engineer Anupam Pathak, who is now a technical lead at Verily. Pathak told MedCity News that the Level product is just beginning of products the company is looking to offer.

“The level handle can calculate the orientation of whatever is attached in real-time and 3D space,” Pathak told MedCity. “For eating, we’ve programmed it to stay totally level to allow the user to scoop food. But in the future, we could have it maintain basically any kind of position … We’re interested in developing attachments for other activities. If you had an impairment in your hands or arms, you could imagine the things you couldn’t do. We’re getting feedback from users, and we’re prioritizing and going after things that are really important.”

As part of the launch, the Huntington’s Disease Society of America and Teva Pharmaceuticals will be donating 1,000 Liftware Level Starter Kits to people who could benefit from the product.