For people with memory-degrading conditions like Alzheimer's, it's not always easy, or even possible, to remember to take one's medicine. Yet forgetting to take your meds—or perhaps worse, forgetting that you already took them and doubling up—can derail a dosage schedule and in worse cases be detrimental to your health. So a couple of University of Texas students have come up with a smart digital system that helps the forgetful among us remember to pop our pills and verifies visually that we've done so.
By the students' own admission their Project Smart Pill Box is somewhat rudimentary, which in certain respects is an advantage because the only hardware it requires is a computer and a Web cam, two pieces of technology that are already present in most homes these days.
When it's time to take you meds, the computer sounds an alert. The Web cam powers up and recognizes your face, and a colored band worn on the finger (the patient has to put this on) helps the system track hand movement. It then watches you take your pills and notes that you have done so, ensuring that you don't forget you took them and come back for another dose until the proper amount of time has passed (it can be programmed to fit your doctors regimen).
The system does require a high degree of patient participation—that is, it doesn't ensure that people who are trying to dodge their medicine take their pills on time. But for the merely forgetful, it does seem like a handy system to have around. Given the time and technology, the duo would like to design a special pill box with embedded weight sensors so it can verify that you take the right pills and that you take all of them.
Jackie and Zach offer a more thorough demonstration in the video below, and there's more info on the project here.
Very interesting Idea, however not too many people will be in front of a computer and a web-cam all the time. I'd recommend an alternative solution for patients that don't have computer's and web-cam's. Perhaps a watch that is equipped with a tiny touch screen and camera to use the same facial recognition algorithms...perhaps when Steve Jobs makes a iWatch that would be a great application?
Just a thought.
"Be sure that you go to the author to get at his meaning, not to find yours." S.R.
This reminds me of THX 1138.
Big Problem: The Patient will have to remember to put on that green finger bracelet, defeats the purpose if you ask me.
Yeah, I agree with everyone else. It will be tough for those of us w/ memory problems and meds to take to remember to do any of this. It only takes missing a dose once or twice to throw you off completely. I also get times when I look at the time or my reminder once and think "I'll do it in a second" and then it gets forgotten. Now, if you pair this with an automatic alarm, activated/updated remotely by a doctor then you might have something. Though, you still run across the problem of someone without some sort of internet or wireless connection. If the person does have internet, then you can maybe use something the size of an alarm clock. Auto updated remotely by the doctor with the times of medication.
This is Jackie and Zach from Project Smart Pill Box. We wanted to address some of the issues pointed out in the comments as well as provide some additional information about the project.
The project was completed as part of the Beagle Board Open Source Design Challenge (Please vote for us at http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/450171/Beagle-Board-Challenge-Voting if you like our idea!). The goal was to come up with a novel use of the Beagle Board (essentially a low-cost, low-power computer), and our idea was Project Smart Pill Box.
The resulting software was essentially a prototype. The end-goal for this project would be an actual pill box with a screen and camera integrated. The Beagle Board is very small, so we could put it inside the casing in order to run the software. Ultimately, this would result in an alarm clock that contains your medicine, reminds you to take it, and visually verifies that you took it correctly. Additionally, the software will always be usable with just a standard computer and webcam, so it will be accessible to those that do not wish to buy a standalone product.
Remembering to put on the green band is a legitimate concern, but this can easily be solved by prompting the user to put on the band before ingesting the pills. Before this project, we actually had very little experience with image/video processing and computer vision. We taught ourselves using the Open Source Computer Vision (OpenCV) library and found that color tracking would serve as an acceptable form of hand tracking; however, an actual hand tracking algorithm may be feasible, thus eliminating the need for the colored band entirely.
In response to the previous comment, the reminder will stay up until the webcam verifies the pill has been taken. Additionally, if the user ignores the warning, the program could be extended to automatically email someone more responsible (like a doctor) to add personal interaction. This would reduce the dependence on a caretaker, and we feel that this would greatly increase a user’s independence while still providing adequate health security.
We'd like to thank PopSci for posting this article about our project. We appreciate your support! If you’d like to contact us regarding this project, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
-Jackie and Zach
How about a simple dispenser with a timer and alarm?
I can certain commend the thought going into this idea, but to me this seems like an over engineered idea more to satisfy the engineers creating it then the patient's needs.
First off in my mind is the whole concept of what is forgotten. If you have a patient that has a memory problem so bad that they can't remember that for the 5 seconds it takes to get the pills in their mouth, I doubt anything will work for them. And this system seems to be geared to make sure the pills get from a box to their mouth. That actually sounds like the most unlikely thing someone will not be able to do.
If I look at people that don't even have "memory" problems, but have lots of pills to take at various times a day. The things that get forgotten are.
1) Not remembering at the right time.
2) Taking the pill(s) and then a short time latter not remembering they took them.
3) Not taking the pill(s), but thinking they did.
These all play into how human memory works (even without "memory problems", which amplifies the problems). At any given time there is so much information that can be remembered, that the human would get overwhelmed if they remembered it all. So we has systems in place to ignore or forget things not deemed important. If you never take pills that is important, but if you take the same pills multiple times a day it becomes routine and is deemed by your brain not important enough to remember. For instance do you remember your drive home two days ago?
To me I think the problem is better solved by actually what your project name suggests "Smart Pill Box". Instead trying to watch if a person took the pills the pill box should be something that is loaded up in advance (maybe even by someone without the memory problems), and be small enough to carry wherever you go. Then at the correct times it beeps (or maybe better talks to them, and says take pills in a voice they recognize) and reminds the person. Then the people press a button (or open it in another way) and it opens to give just the next set of pills. The person dumps them in their hand and box closes (and hopefully person takes pills). Box goes on waiting till next time that the person should take pills. If person was busy and doesn't dump out pills at the right time it reminds them again later up to a point (you don't want to double up the pills you were suppose to take in the morning with the ones in the afternoon). The box should also record when pills where taken (or missed) so that a later time that information can be provided to whoever can take responsible actions on it (which could be the person themselves or a caretaker).
Please note also that the box I was talking about shouldn't open until it is the right time to do so even if the person presses the button to open it. Instead it should say something like "It is not time to take your pills, you took the last pills at 12 o'clock".
Then again as I think of it, if can monitor the user taking that pills then that is not a bad thing... And given the average cell phone has everything you would need in the way of hardware...
Yep please ignore my comments. I think there is no reason you can't do what you are talking about.
pretty simple idea. I agree with the dispenser and the alarm. You can have a smart dispenser that can identify the different pills that are loaded along with the times the pills need to be dispensed. That's your best design.
That Jackie girl is a doll. Zach if your reading this post, go for it. Girls like Jackie are few and fair between.
I like the idea. There are always problems to work out. I sometimes discover that my wife has missed meds, so it would be nice to have a better system. Loe the THX 1138 reference above!
I think it is always cool to see technology and medicine meet. I think it is a cool concept, but it is kind of troublesome to have to sit in front of a computer to take your meds.
i really wish people would read comments and the article, they posted saying it would be small, it would remind them to take pills, and would see which one they did so they don't OD, size of an alarm clock, people please read....
Jackie, you are so beautiful you don't even look real. Wow!
This message is for Jackie and Zach. We would like to profile you new technology on CNN. Please Contact me ASAP as we would like to do this as early as Friday Feb 25th