It's Been Years Since One Woman Has Been Able To Draw A Straight Line. Watch This Inventor Change That.

"It makes me forget I have a tremor."

Graphic designer Emma Lawton hasn't been able to draw a straight line since she was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease at 29.

Parkinson's disease is a long-term disorder that happens in the central nervous system. It gradually affects a person's movements over time and can start with someone experiencing tremors through his or her body. In Lawton's case, the tremors had gotten so bad that she avoided writing and drawing altogether.

The BBC Two recently aired her story as part of its show, The Big Life Fix with Simon Reeve. The new show is three-part series that invites inventors, designers, and engineers to create "life-changing solutions for people in desperate need."

Now 33, Lawton looked to help inventor Haiyan Zhang, a computer scientist and Microsoft Research Cambridge's innovation director, for help getting her drawing skills back. 

"Anything you can do that would just make my hand do what I want it to do and to be able to sign my name would be an incredible thing," Lawton told Zhang in footage from the show. 

Zhang wasn't sure she could get Lawton's writing ability back to 100 percent, but was optimistic that she could make a difference in her writing abilities. She did some research and found that a "smart" spoon has been developed for people with hand tremors to eat with ease

"The spoon actually vibrates in opposition to how your hand might be shaking and therefore, it's steady," Zhang explained to her team. 

She used the same vibration principles to come up with a solution to Lawton's problem. 


Zhang and her team created a wearable vibrating device that allows Lawton's brain to be distracted by the vibrations of the motors as she writes. The device, appropriately named "The Emma," looks like a watch and has tiny coin-cell motors that short-circuits the connection between the brain and the hand that cause tremors.

After several months of hard work, Zhang presents the device to Lawton. Lawton was completely overcome with emotion. 

"It makes me forget I have a tremor," she said after she was finally able to draw a straight line. "I haven't drawn one of them in a long time." 

You can watch the video below to see Lawton's reaction to "The Emma":

Lawton also shared sketches she did with The Emma during the World Parkinson Congress in September, an international forum for people to share scientific discoveries and initiatives for the disease. Notice the difference between these and her earlier work.

You can view the rest of her sketches on Instagram.

(H/T: BBC)


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