It looks like a sobriety test: A girl stands on one leg, barefoot, atop a metal platform that shakes, slides, and wobbles like the kid-friendly version of a mechanical bull. But instead of measuring her ability to drive, Wobble is testing whether or not she has a concussion.
In competitive sports, concussions among the biggest risks to players’ long-term health. And if the athlete is not given enough time to heal, their condition can become drastically more severe. Concussion research is progressing slowly, but doctors and on-field medics still need better tools to diagnose concussions and monitor their effects, both on the sidelines and in the locker room. That’s where Wobble comes in.
A group of Georgia Tech students designed the device to monitor a user’s balance, one of the lingering symptoms of concussions. Concussions can cause dizziness, nausea, headaches, and more, but balance is one of the best indicators. Other symptoms may fade after a few days — even if a concussion’s neurological damage may not have healed — but balance issues can persist for up to four or five weeks. When a patient steps on the device, four sensors in the plate read pressure on its surface. As he shifts his balance, the device takes detailed readings about how the patient reacts to movement. If his balance is still different from a baseline test (taken before a concussion), then it’s probably not safe for him to resume play.
Wobble’s creators — Hailey Brown, Matthew Devlin, Ana Gomez del Campo, and Garrett Wallace — are a group of Georgia Tech engineering students competing for the InVenture Prize, a $20,000 grant from the university to pursue their design. The second place team gets $10,000, and both top finishers receive free U.S. patent filings and a place in Georgia Tech’s startup accelerator program, Flashpoint. Team Wobble hopes to have 15-20 pre-production models finished for researchers and local high school football teams for use this summer — so they can start collecting data to further refine the device. Watch their InVenture video below.