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The Invention That Gave This Graphic Designer Back Her Art

9 Dec 16  | Engineering |  Technology
The Invention That Gave This Graphic Designer Back Her Art



When Emma Lawton was just 29-years-old she was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, a degenerative disease more common amongst the elderly, which causes tremors, muscular rigidity and imprecise movement. Emma is a graphic designer, and as you might imagine, symptoms like these are not especially conducive to fine-line drawing and 

"It's a tiny, tiny human right, to be able to make that mark on a piece of paper," says Emma. "It's your identity. And not to be able to do it is really upsetting." 

She's talking about writing her own name - a right that most of us barely even consider a privilege. Yet to Emma, at the age of just 29, this right was becoming less and less hers. Of course, as a graphic designer, losing the ability to 

Parkinson's disease occurs due to a loss of nerve cells in the brain. These nerve cells produce dopamine, a chemical which allows the transmission of messages to the parts of the brain which co-ordinate motor function. As the dopamine-producing cells die, these parts of the brain become unable to work normally, and the symptoms of Parkinsons become apparent. These symptoms can include 

In a new series from BBC2, Emma met Haiyan Zhang, a 'designer, technologist and maker of things'. Haiyan is Innovation Director at Microsoft Research Cambridge, 'inventing cutting-edge technology to enable new 'Connected Play' experiences". Haiyan found a way to help Emma get back her steady hand - and her joy in her work.

Haiyan invented a device which can be worn on the wrist, and emits small vibrations into the arm. It appears to essentially confuse the brain and in Emma's case, allowed her to write her name legibly for the first time in three years. 

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