How technology helped this disabled street artist draw with his eyes - Brooklyn


Jun. 20, 2016 12:16 pm

How technology helped this disabled street artist draw with his eyes

Plus other instances of how technology is changing the field of healthcare, as told by Dr. David Putrino at the Brooklyn Biohackers meetup.

Dr. David Putrino of Know Science speaks at the Brooklyn Biohackers meetup.

(Courtesy photo)

Sometimes, in order to solve problems in healthcare, you have to look outside medicine for inspiration.

This was a key takeaway from Thursday’s Brooklyn Biohackers talk by Dr. David Putrino held in Genspace. The nonprofit organization’s community biolab space in downtown Brooklyn was overflowing with people who were interested in the science of human performance. Putrino, a professor at Weill-Cornell Medical College, showed the potential technology holds in terms of optimizing wellness, happiness and fitness.

Putrino, whose experience runs the gamut from studying computational neuroscience at Harvard and MIT to consulting for Red Bull High Performance, introduced the audience to new technologies in the medical field.

Optimizing Wellness

Telehealth Intervention Program for Seniors (TIPS) is proof that you do not need high-tech gear in order to optimize wellness. A program in practice in places like Westchester, N.Y., and Scranton, Pa., TIPS is remote patient monitoring for those who are over 65 years old, have two or more chronic conditions and under Medicaid. With TIPS, qualified students collect seniors’ health metrics and securely transfer them to a server where a remote evaluation is done by a registered nurse. The program has reduced hospitalizations by 35 percent, Putrino said.

Optimizing Happiness

It is not news that mindfulness apps have exploded in the market. But it’s important to remember that these apps aren’t a replacement for a therapist, Putrino said.

If you are mentally healthy, mindfulness apps are great for exercising your brain. But Putrino said there is no research to suggest that these apps help those who have mental illness. If you are interested in mindfulness apps, Putrino suggests Headspace, Calm, Mind Up and Breathful. He especially likes Headspace.  


Putrino talked about an app that he’s working on called MindMe that allows patients to work with their therapist remotely at any time of the day. The app allows patients to track how they feel. If they aren’t feeling particularly great that day, there are distractions tailored for them, suggestions include taking a walk or playing a game on their phone.

Optimizing Function 

Putrino also works with Not Impossible Labs, a group that believes in technology for the sake of humanity. They crowdsource technological solutions that are accessible to solve humanitarian problems.

Two of their projects have helped those with ALS, a rare progressive neurodegenerative disease, in different ways. One is the EyeWriter, an eye-tracking apparatus that allows a graffiti artist to draw with his eyes. Learn how to make your own here.

For project Don’s Voice, they developed a simple interface with a computer to replicate Don’s paper letter board. Don, who hasn’t spoke for 15 years was allowed to audibly say “I love you” to his wife through this uncomplicated technology. The interface is open source.

Organizations: Genspace
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