When you wander the vast exhibit halls at CES 2015, it feels like you’ve been transported into some future Grand Bazaar of Istanbul, circa 2050.
Booth after booth after booth (times a few hundred); some big, some small, sometimes filled with flashing lights and video screens and booming sound, sometimes as spartan as a Swiss designer’s dream.
There are voices of every accent; French, Chinese, South Korean, Japanese, Thai, German, Australian, British, and even Columbus, Ohio (the incredibly popular 94fifty basketball from InfoMotion, 94fifty.com).
So I decided to take a stroll through the “dark side” (the non-digital-health side) wearing my virtual Health Lens (I have to be careful saying that because there’s probably an actual “Health Lens” hiding in one of these booths) to see if any of these secular wonders could have healthcare applications.
1. 3-D Printing
There were at least a dozen of these manufacturers touting their magic boxes, spinning objects out of resin, chocolate, sugar, even pasta. There have definitely been breakthrough healthcare applications already (life-changing prosthetic devices for the developing world), but there are other possibilities here: individually customized surgeon tools and eyewear, educational models of the exact organ being treated, and obviously the holy grail: transplantable organs (rt.com/news/202175-3d-bioprinted-organ-transplant/).
There were short ones, tall ones, humanoids and stripped-down, Terminator-minus-skin, versions. They can play music, turn the TV on, grab you a beer, and read your child a bedtime story (I guess while you watch TV with a beer). But, now, imagine a telehealth robot, equipped with multiple diagnostic devices (available now), connecting with your on-screen physician (available now), and then delivering pill reminders and treatment information (answering PI and Safety questions, anyone?) after the pharmacy drones your prescription over (possible, but not available now).
3. “The Button” by flic (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/flic-the-wireless-smart-button)
I happened on this simply genius idea on the indigogo row: a wireless, physical button that can be adhered, or clipped, anywhere, and with one click (or two clicks or one press– you can connect three functions to each button), it can trigger any function your phone is programmed to do. So imagine having a single button that can instantly call 911 or telehealth a doctor (elderly care), a single button that could tally up your wearable data and give you a thumbs up or down at any time, a single button that could give you a shopping list of condition-specific foods to buy while you’re in the store.
4. The Connected House.
“If walls could talk” is no longer a flip adage. Walls now talk to the frig which talks to the thermostat which talks to the security system which talks to your light bulbs which talks to your coffeemaker which talks to your ceiling fan which talks to your door locks. But what if the Internet of Things (IoT) spoke healthcare? Could it all come down to your bathroom mirror, where you stand morning and evening? A mirror that has your activity data and diet data and diagnostic data, like from your scale, wearables, blood pressure cuff, and others. The mirror could then aggregate the data and deliver personalized health tips and news bytes for your day (AM) and for tomorrow (PM).
5. The Self-Driving Car.
The autonomous Audi A7 made the 550-mile drive from Silicon Valley to CES 2015 in Vegas in 2 hours– minus a driver. Mercedes and Ford also introduced their driverless wonders. It could create new mobility for physically-challenged adults. Or imagine “personal ambulances” that with one click with a flic button, and a constant stream of home diagnostics being sent to the hospital, lives usually lost, due to not getting to the hospital in time, would be saved.
Oh, I also saw a cool robot grill cleaner. Which, healthcare-wise, would mean less heterocyclic amine carcinogens, right? (Okay, I tried.)