It’s really an amazing product that needs to be out there.
The first and only time I watched Tremors (spoiler alert — it’s a terrible movie starring Kevin Bacon and a bunch of enormous worms), I thought the biggest problem on earth that involved tremors was whether or not a sharp-toothed, flesh-craving worm would spring forth from the ground and consume me whole. As it turns out, this isn’t that common of a problem.
In actuality, the most common problem involving tremors doesn’t involve worms, Kevin Bacon, or even six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon — it involves finding a way to legitimately track and measure the progression of a tremor. And that’s where the three men of Vykon Technologies come in.
“I work in the neuromechanics lab in BYU, I’ve worked there for about two-and-a-half years with Dr. Steven Charles, and we were looking for ways to evaluate tremors objectively,” CEO Nathan Stanford said. “Right now if you have a tremor and go to the doctor, the doctor is going to sit you down and talk about how severe the tremor is, how it’s going to progress, but there’s really no metric or way for you to track your tremor over time. With no tool to do it, you’re basically left up to a subjective measure.”
It doesn’t take a genius to realize leaving your health up to subjective measures is not ideal. So Stanford, along with CTO Matthew Durant and CFO Cameron Hadley, have developed an easy, efficient way to track the severity and progression of a tremor. All that’s required? Patients hold their hand above the Leap Motion Controller, a motion tracking device, and the rest is history.
“Leap Motion, if you’ve ever played with a Xbox and used Xbox Kinect, uses the same technology,” Stanford said. “It projects an infrared field and then it uses really accurate sensors to triangulate what it sees. There’s about an eight-foot cubic area of space that you can stick your hand into and it will track the movement of your hand.”
Once you’ve held your hand over the sensors for a small number of seconds, it’s time for Vykon’s software application to come into play. It’s called DextraSense, and it allows you to analyze and accurately track movement disorders through a computer program. No more going to the doctor and trying to remember what your tremor was like two months ago — because let’s be honest, we all just lie to our doctors anyway — the combination of Leap Motion and DextraSense gives users solid, applicable readouts on the severity and progression of the tremor. Subjective measures gone, statistical measures found.
“In the past, if you wanted to gauge a tremor in our laboratory, we’d have to hook you up to a $40,000 system that measures position over time,” Stanford said. “Every one of the sensors had a cable, we did have some that were wireless, but not very good resolution and not very accurate. Especially for really small finger tremors, we couldn’t get that before. And so this does it with what’s considered a markerless application, we don’t need to tape anything to the fingers, you literally just stick your hand straight over it and it will track the tremor.”
Having a markerless system is key. Placing sensors on the hand can dampen the effects of a tremor and in turn give a less accurate reading than the simple act of holding your bare hand over a sensor field.
“We’re actually able to see the tremor in each individual part of the hand, see how it behaves differently in each individual finger,” Stanford said. “That’s what I’ve been able to patent as part of the laboratory process, the idea that we can use a markerless system to track tremors.”
Like a young child learning to walk, Vykon Technologies is still straddling the line between business infancy and adulthood. They have a prototype, they have desire and passion, and they have real-life experience with the problems posed by essential tremors.
“What drew me to it, I have been diagnosed with an essential tremor and it’s exacerbated by stress,” Durant said. “There were times when it was all I could think about. So I do understand it is a real issue and we can help a lot of people. We’ve got a prototype and we’ve been able to showcase and demonstrate it at an expo down in Phoenix, and we got really good feedback. Even with our minimal-function prototype, about two out of every three people who demo’d it said, ‘Can we buy this right now?’ So we’ve got some pretty good momentum but we are really young.”
Vykon was recently named a finalist for the Utah Entrepreneur Challenge, an opportunity to gain exposure and/or money in the state’s largest student entrepreneur competition. They aren’t trying to diagnose anything — they’ll leave that up to medical professionals — they’re simply trying to provide people with useful information that can be used to treat, understand, and track movement disorders.
“Our hope for this is, the adoption into the medical community would be accelerated by the fact that it’s going to be really affordable, much more affordable than the other technologies, and that it can even be sold directly to consumers,” Durant said.
If you don’t think tremors are a problem, then you probably aren’t aware that March is National Tremor Awareness Month. Only legitimate things have entire months dedicated to them, people! An estimated ten million people are affected by essential tremors and there isn’t an effective, accurate, cost-friendly way of tracking them.
Vykon Technologies, with the help of Leap Motion and DextraSense, is out to help with that problem.
“It’s really an amazing product that needs to be out there,” Hadley said.