B-Shoe Technologies addresses the grim statistic that every year, one out of three people aged 65 and older takes a spill in the United States alone. Closer to age 80, the risk affects nearly everybody, and these falls often result in hospitalization and decreased life expectancy. Related healthcare costs are estimated in the billions.
For biomechanical engineer Yonatan Manor, these epidemic-like stats hit home as his father aged and began to fall frequently. Observing how elderly people walk and stand, he theorized that the biomechanics of stability – just like vision and hearing – deteriorate with age. The muscles and reflexes cannot manage the little unconscious adjustments to maintain optimal center of pressure in the heel area. The correcting step backward comes too late, in the wrong direction or not at all.
Confirming his theory with physiotherapists and doctors, and through studies at Ben-Gurion University’s Center for Multidisciplinary Research in Aging, Manor and electronic engineer partners Abraham Stamper and Aharon Shapiro dug the heel out of a sneaker and installed a sensor-driven motorized mechanism that can drive the shoe backward in a controlled and gentle manner to prevent falling.
Six years ago, B-Shoe began developing this prototype with support from the Office of the Chief Scientist, and continued in a Haifa startup incubator.
“We built prototypes of shoes that can save lives,” Stamper tells ISRAEL21c. Three pairs of B-Shoes being tested in gait laboratories of leading Israeli hospitals have an internal processor and real-time clock that collects user data to share with the doctor.
“The sensors can detect that the center of pressure is going beyond the back line of support. If there is no reaction from the wearer for more than a few milliseconds, the shoes begin moving backwards five to seven centimeters until stability is regained. People who tried it said they felt it’s improving their balance and it’s not a scary movement.””The main electronic mechanism is in the heel, and the rechargeable battery will be embedded in the sole along with the pressure sensors,” Stamper explains.
After winning US and Israeli patents, B-Shoe launched a crowdfunding campaign to get the product into mass production.
With sufficient investment to complete the regulation process, miniaturize the entire mechanism and start mass production, B-Shoe could be on the market in two years. Stamper is already in contact with the US Food and Drug Administration, and is seeking a strategic marketing partner.
The team’s medical advisory board includes Dr. Carlos Gordon, director of the Dizziness and Balance Disorders Clinic at Meir General Hospital in Kfar Saba.
Read more at ISRAEL21C.