[nfbmi-talk] msu designs talking insulin pump prototype

Terry D. Eagle terrydeagle at yahoo.com
Sat Dec 27 22:02:36 UTC 2014

MSU students design prototype for talking insulin pump 

The first time August Garrett and his classmates heard an insulin pump talk,
"it was
kind of celebratory," the Michigan State University engineering student
student said. They had spent much of their fall semester trying to make it
do just that. The four seniors from MSU's Department of Electrical and
Computer Engineering weredeveloping a prototype for a possible solution to a
fatal problem: how to help visually impaired diabetics administer proper
dosages of insulin. Their plan? Use a voice chip that reads out the names of
different buttons on an insulin pump when a user touches them. If it works,
the students hope to publish their research to help other engineers design
medical devices and other appliances to be accessible to people with
disabilities. And companies that make insulin pumps one day could be able to
serve customers whose needs now are largely unmet. "If you're looking at an
insulin pump for example, at the screen there's a chance that you might
misread it.

If you have audio feedback, that provides a verification, which is very
important in a device like this," said Stephen Blosser, assistive technology
with MSU's Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities, who helped
coordinate the students' work. "It's an independence issue. It's more than
just an

inconvenience," Blosser said. "It's something that people that are blind
should have available to them. Diabetes is linked to a condition called

retinopathy, which can cause blindness in adults. More than half of the 18
million adult diabetics in the U.S. were affected, according to a 2008
from the National Institutes of Health. The condition can be treated with
surgery. Insulin pumps offer diabetics an alternative to the daily
that many use to regulate their blood sugar. The devices, inserted into the
skin, administer insulin through a catheter in regular doses or in larger
at meals. A computer inside the pump allows patients to program their
insulin doses to best fit their needs. But some older diabetics and those
with visual
impairments can have a hard time reading labels on the pump's buttons or
small print on electronic screens. It's a problem that could be lethal
they accidentally give themselves the wrong dose. The prototype being
developed at MSU is designed to fit existing insulin pumps.. Asante
Solutions Inc.,
a Sunnyvale, California-based firm that develops medical devices for
diabetics, donated two pumps and batteries to the project and helped teach
the students
how to interact electronically with the company's system. "This is an
important area, as diabetes and visual impairment are closely related," Mark
Asante's chief product architect, said via email. "We are thrilled with the
progress they made. Researchers said they rejected ideas to add Braille to
the buttons in part out of concern that some diabetics might have lost
sensitivity in their fingers after daily pricks to test blood sugar levels,
in part
because some patients might never have learned Braille and to use Bluetooth
technology to connect the pumps to cellphones because of security concerns
related to patients' medical information. Instead, they settled on a sensor
available on most cellphone touch screens and connected it to a speech chip,
said Garrett, 22, an electrical engineering major from Canton who graduated
this month and worked on the project. One of his classmates, Caitlin Ramsey,
recorded her voice saying the names of various functions on the insulin
pumps "to give it more of a human element," said Garrett, who will start a
in General Motors Co. s powertrain engineering department in January. "I am
pretty optimistic that, with a little bit more refining, it is something
could be on (the market) someday," he said. Blosser hopes it happens. If he
can secure about $4,000 in additional funding, he plans to recruit a new
of students this spring semester to build on the previous students' work.
The team has not yet been able to make the device fully functional. If they
he said they'll turn their attention to making it smaller and more portable.
"We're not in the business of making insulin pumps. There are people out
already doing it," Blosser said. "We're not after the patents and the
funding. We're just trying to make society more accessible.

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