Monday , November 22 2021

The UW team imagines a better Parkinson's test and ends up in the global final of the Microsoft student competition

Video chat screenshots of the Tremor Vision team at the University of Washington from left: Janae Chan, Robert Minneker and Drew Gallardo. (Photos courtesy of Tremor Vision)

A team of students from the University of Washington is among the global finalists in Microsoft's annual Imagine Cup after putting their imagination – and technical skills – in the hope of finding better ways to diagnose and treat Parkinson's disease.

Tremor Vision is a web-based tool that takes advantage of the time and cost-saving benefits of telemedicine by helping caregivers identify Parkinson's disease early on and tracking patient progress using a test performed on a touchscreen device.

The team behind the technology consists of Janae Chan and Robert Minneker, both seniors in their fifth year studying bioengineering and computer science at the UW, and Drew Gallardo, a fourth year senior who studies computer science.

They are among the six Imagine Cup finalists who will fight for the main prize in the meantime Microsoft Build, practically this year from May 19th to 21st.

Imagine Cup, now in its 18th year, is Microsoft's global technology competition for student developers.The goal is to enable students to use Microsoft Azure and other technologies to create the next steps while giving them the opportunity to receive mentoring, win money and other prizes, and develop skills in business and technology . Microsoft Evaluation criteria have been added this year that focus on accessibility, diversity and inclusion.

Chan said the idea for Tremor Vision came from UW's annual hackathon last October, where they shared ideas.

"Personally, I have friends with grandparents who have Parkinson's, so this is already under discussion," said Chan. "And Rob and I did an internship in a company last summer and they developed apps for Parkinson's. So that was always in the back of our minds and we found something that wasn't addressed in the Parkinson's area."

The team was also motivated by Gallardo's personal story when he grew up in eastern Washington and lived with his disabled brother. According to Microsoft, his family is facing major challenges when it comes to the distance required for medical appointments.

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Tremor Vision tries to eliminate the need for routine hospital visits. The idea focuses on digitizing the widespread "spiral test", a method of detecting tremors in a patient because that person is tasked with drawing a simple spiral.

"Because we know that it is already working, we wanted to improve (the test) using the existing technology," said Chan.

With Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services, MATLAB and Microsoft Visual Studio, Tremor Vision tracks patient progress and enables more frequent data collection without visiting the office, as well as early detection.

The team is still developing and improving the app, but is targeting clinical trials. They spoke to doctors and improved their test suite. The goal is to coordinate with an electronic patient record provider who could help Tremor Vision reach a large market and integrate the technology into the lives of Parkinson's patients.

"One thing we would like to highlight is the creation of a tool to support doctors and physicians without replacing their role and expertise," said Chan. "I think the term 'clinical decision support' is really a key term. We give them more data to make a diagnosis. "

The 2020 Image Cup was launched Tens of thousands of competitors from over 170 countries, and was held practically due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The final pitch competition for the World Cup will be as virtual as Microsoft Build.

"We have really strong competition," said Chan. "I think we have a lot of good points to sell, and it's definitely something that needs to be addressed, whether it's Parkinson's or just to make a lot of tests more accessible." I think that's a start. So we feel good. "

About Charlotte Polly Olsson

Charlotte Polly Olsson is a 53 years old personal trainer who enjoys relaxing, playing video games and cycling. She is generous and inspiring, but can also be very dull and a bit greedy.

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