Dialog, a new concept by Seattle-based Artefact, imagines what the iWatch of epilepsy-management devices would look like: a patch-like wearable that connects to your smartphone and allows sufferers the ability to track, manage, and predict their seizures.

Why epilepsy? For starters, it's a big problem. The third most common neurological disorder after Alzheimer's disease and stroke, nearly 3 million people in the United States have it, and a good 50,000 die from epilepsy-related causes. And even when epilepsy isn't fatal, it has major psychological effects on people's lives.

"We were struck by how challenging it is to live with epilepsy," says Artefact's Matthew Jordan. "The condition is complex, unpredictable, and misunderstood. The people we talked to told us again and again--they live in permanent anxiety, not knowing when a seizure will start and how that single event could change their life forever, both physically but also the relationships with the people around them."

While there are gadgets that help mitigate the dangers of epilepsy, these mostly take the form of alert bracelets and safety gear. With Dialog, Artefact wanted to create a platform that would not only help people better understand their condition but live with it as well.

Consisting of a small, quarter-sized wearable device connected via Bluetooth to a nearby smartphone app, Dialog can help epilepsy sufferers remember to take their medications, warn them about seizures before they happen, as well as alert friends, family, or caregivers when a seizure does happen.

Connected apps help epileptics analyze where they have been and what they were doing when they had seizures, and instruct bystanders and responders what to do if they are discovered in the midst of an episode.

Dialog is not a retail product, or likely to become one soon, but Artefact has taken pains to make sure that the individual technology components are practical, in that they are currently being developed, prototyped, and tested at industry labs and research universities worldwide.

Jordan says that he thinks that the Dialog could become a practical retail product within two years--something Artefact would definitely like to see.

"Our goal with Dialog is to show that when you take a user-centered approach and apply design thinking and innovation to a complex medical problem, you can come up with a experience that is much more human-centered than what people with chronic conditions have access to today," Jordan says. "Whether designing a device or a service, we hope to inspire companies to pursue a much more human-centered approach in health care."

Co.Design

An iWatch For Epileptics, With A Brilliant UI

Dialog is a wearable concept designed to help patients track and manage their seizures. Even Jony Ive would approve.

So far, the future of wearables has been framed mostly in the context of fitness, but what will it mean for those afflicted with lifelong medical issues? Dialog, a new concept by Seattle-based Artefact, imagines what the iWatch of epilepsy-management devices would look like: a patch-like wearable that connects to your smartphone and allows sufferers the ability to track, manage, and predict their seizures.

Why epilepsy? For starters, it's a big problem. The third most common neurological disorder after Alzheimer's disease and stroke, nearly 3 million people in the United States have it, and a good 50,000 die from epilepsy-related causes. And even when epilepsy isn't fatal, it has major psychological effects on people's lives.

"We were struck by how challenging it is to live with epilepsy," says Artefact's Matthew Jordan, the leader of the project. "The condition is complex, unpredictable, and misunderstood. The people we talked to told us again and again—they live in permanent anxiety, not knowing when a seizure will start and how that single event could change their life forever, both physically but also the relationships with the people around them."

While there are gadgets that help mitigate the dangers of epilepsy, these mostly take the form of alert bracelets and safety gear. With Dialog, Artefact wanted to create a platform that would not only help people better understand their condition but live with it as well.

Consisting of a small, quarter-sized wearable device connected via Bluetooth to a nearby smartphone app, Dialog can help epilepsy sufferers remember to take their medications, warn them about seizures before they happen, as well as alert friends, family, or caregivers when a seizure does happen. Connected apps help epileptics analyze where they have been and what they were doing when they had seizures, and instruct bystanders and responders what to do if they are discovered in the midst of an episode.

One particularly slick idea about Dialog is the interface. Featuring a UI based around natural interactions, Dialog allows patients to call for help with just a grasp of the wearable patch, which may be all they can do in the middle of a seizure. A double tap allows a patient to record an aura, which is the sensation many epilepsy sufferers feel before a seizure, allowing them to have time to prepare; the typical time between an aura and a seizure could then be measured. Just tracing a smiley or frownie can track current moods on the patch's display; vibrations alert users that it's time to take their medications.

Dialog is not a retail product, or likely to become one soon, but Artefact has taken pains to make sure that the individual technology components are practical, in that they are currently being developed, prototyped, and tested at industry labs and research universities worldwide. Jordan says that he thinks that the Dialog could become a practical retail product within two years—something Artefact would definitely like to see.

"Our goal with Dialog is to show that when you take a user-centered approach and apply design thinking and innovation to a complex medical problem, you can come up with an experience that is much more human-centered than what people with chronic conditions have access to today," Jordan says. "Whether designing a device or a service, we hope to inspire companies to pursue a much more human-centered approach in health care."

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10 Comments

  • Susan Millar

    I can't wait until you get this to market. My daughter needs one, now. Please let us know when it is available. Many thanks, Susan

  • I have had seizures literally my entire life, which is not as common as people would think. For the first 20 years or so of my life, my seizures were tonic clonic (or grand mal as most know them) and were painfully obvious when they occurred.

    Over that past 2 years, however, I have been having simple partial seizures. They don't sound like a big deal to most people - I remain fully conscious, and my right leg and foot twitches - but they last so long (a short on tends to be about a half hour) that it actually hurts my calf after only a few minutes, and it drains all of my energy.

    If something like this could predict my seizures with any kind of accuracy, it would be amazing. I would definitely buy such a product, and would be happy to help with development in any way that I can.

  • My wife just sent me this article because our son has epilepsy; We have been watching and waiting for 'wearables' to tackle epilepsy for quite some time. Not all of our son's seizures have a clonic phase, so the current solutions don't quite fit our needs.

    I was surprised and thrilled that Artefact is behind this. My former employer hired Artefact to help us with a product design challenges in 2011 - I've never met such a talented group of people!! Best of luck to them and this project!

  • Thanks, Gareth. We are excited by the overwhelmingly positive response we have received from people who have been affected by this condition--directly or indirectly. And thanks for the kind words about our work--it always great to hear we left a good impression.

  • Grace Bessieres

    I'm totally impressed. As a sufferer for nearly 40 years and many hospitalizations, I can see the benefit of this type of device... I am all for it....

  • Looking at the Smart Monitor makes me appreciate the attention to beauty with Dialog. People shouldn't have to wear bulky blocks of black plastic and buttons. Aesthetics matter--they impact self-image and mood...beautiful design expresses compassion. That's a much better frame of mind to embrace as we design the next generation of "medical appliances" and utilities.