If you're someone who loves the feel and experience of writing by hand, could you imagine losing that ability?
It happens to Parkinson's patients who develop bradykinesia, a symptom which slows movement and affects fine motor control. Writing becomes painful, leading to small, cramped handwriting, called micrographia.
That's why a group of UK university students have developed a pen specially designed to ease the writing experience for those with Parkinson's disease. (About 127,000 people in the UK have Parkinson's and about two-thirds develop micrographia.)
The ARC pen by Dopa Solution, formed by students from Imperial College and the Royal College of Art, contains motors that vibrate, easing the cramping in the user's hand.
According to Dopa's website:
ARC is the first pen specifically designed for people with Parkinson’s living with micrographia. This condition can result in small, cramped and often uncomfortable handwriting. Many people with this motor control difficulty give up the practice of writing or drawing altogether...By utilizing high frequency vibration motors within ARC, we are able to facilitate larger and clearer writing by stimulating the key muscles in the hand as well as reducing the effort required to move the pen across the paper.
The group says it ran trials of the pen with 14 Parkinson's patients. Writing size increased for 86 percent of the participants.
Even after the pens were turned off, the users' handwriting remained larger, according to Dopa. The group is doing additional research now to determine how long the effect lasts.
The pen itself appears to be made of plastic in an ergonomic design that immediately made me think of Stabilo EasyErgo pens. A button on the end of the pen activates the motors and it recharges in a docking station.
I've emailed the Dopa team to see what kind of refill the pen uses and will let you know if they get back to me.
Unfortunately, the pen is not yet commercially available. The Dopa website says the group is looking for funding, manufacturers and distributors, as well as Parkinson's patients for additional testing.
This is a great project, and we'll definitely be following up with them to see how they are progressing.