Longevity Network
  • Mar 08, 2017
  • Entrepreneur Spotlight, Daily Essential Activities

Entrepreneur of the Week, Anupam Pathak, Liftware

Entrepreneur of the Week, Anupam Pathak, Liftware

Liftware currently offers two products that stabilize and level handles and attachments for people with hand tremor or limited hand and arm mobility. It was originally founded under the name Lift Labs with the help of a Small Business Innovation Research grant from NIH, and in 2014, was acquired by Google’s Life Sciences (now Verily). By allowing users to maintain independence in everyday essential activities like eating, Liftware’s products also allow users to retain dignity and confidence.

We spoke with Founder and CEO Anupam Pathak about Liftware, and the opportunities he sees in the 50+ market.

Longevity Network: What does Liftware, the company do?

Anupam Pathak: Liftware is a team of engineers, designers, and user specialists who are committed to supporting those with limited mobility live fully and independently. We believe that there is significant opportunity in our rapidly changing technological world to make profound impact on the quality of life of those currently struggling every day.

LN: Can you tell us about the Liftware and how it works?

AP: We currently have two hand-held technologies available — Liftware Steady and Liftware Level

Liftware Steady is a device that was designed to help people with unintentional hand tremor.

These symptoms can be caused by conditions like Essential Tremor, Parkinson’s Disease, and other diseases like Multiple Sclerosis. The device uses a small microcontroller and a motion sensor to detect and differentiate unintentional tremor from intended movement. If tremor is detected, the device will physically move the attached implement (e.g. spoon) in the opposite direction to the tremor. For example, if the user shook right the device will move the utensil left by the same amount, thus cancelling the motion.

Liftware Level is a brand new device designed for people with limited upper-extremity mobility.

This can include people affected by cerebral palsy, stroke, spinal cord injury, huntington’s disease or other similar disorders. This device works to keep the attached implement level relative to the ground, no matter how the handle is turned or twisted. It similarly uses a variety of motion sensors, a controller, and motors to constantly adjust its position so that the user does not spill or lose control of their activity.

LN: What opportunity did you want to address with the development of your technology?

AP: First and foremost: the opportunity to help people. We worked closely with support groups and family members to understand the user’s needs and then develop something useful. We decided to start with eating since that was the most requested activity that people needed help with, though we are now exploring other areas of daily living.

LN: Who are your primary users? In what ways can your products benefit the 50+ population?

AP: Many of the conditions we are helping with are age-related. Essential tremor, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke, for example, mainly affect people over 60 years old. As a result, we’ve been very active in developing the concept of aging well.

LN: How did you assemble your team?

AP: The company was initially funded by the NIH through the small business program (SBIR). For about 3 years, we developed the core technology in collaboration with university hospitals. The core team consisted of extremely talented electromechanical engineers and designers. Once we started shipping product, we quickly had to assemble a customer service and operations team, who have been amazing.

LN: How has Liftware the company differed from what you envisioned it would be (if at all)?

AP: I didn’t expect how quickly things would move — we went from a prototype to a real product that required support in a matter of months. We are also moving quickly to additional technologies faster than I had imagined.

LN: What do you wish you had known before developing your concept?

AP: The amount of time, effort, and planning required in early design is substantial for hardware products. Most people (us included) tend to underestimate this. Thankfully we had access to mentors who made sure we avoided common pitfalls.

LN: What most excites you about the aging and or health technology market?

AP: I feel a sense of urgency more than excitement. The U.S. is going to experience a huge increase to the aging population. We need to challenge and even change the conventional, institutional approach to aging. We need to keep people independent and living at home longer, both for emotional benefit and because our society has limited resources. The thing that excites me is that I really believe technological advances will play a big role in providing solutions.

LN: What market is your best piece of advice for startups who want to include or target the 50+ market?

AP: Try to empathize with users as much as possible. People have been doing things a certain way for decades and getting them to change habits is extremely difficult. With that reality, the challenge is to design clever products that fit seamlessly into their lives and routines while simultaneously providing benefit.

LN: Where do you see Liftware five years from now?

AP: I think in 5-10 years we’ll start to rethink what it means to be “disabled” because so many technologies will be available to allow people to function easily in daily life regardless of their conditions. The Liftware group will play an important role in that transition.

An entrepreneur and innovator at heart, Anupam Pathak develops pioneering technology for people with various forms of disabilities. Recently, he founded Lift Labs, which launched two high-tech devices designed to stabilize itself for people with tremor due to diseases like Parkinson’s disease and well as general upper-extremity disability. Google (Alphabet) acquired the company into Verily, to allow the group to continue building new technologies to dramatically improve the lives of the millions of people suffering from disability or impairment.

To learn more about Liftware, visit their website and follow them on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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