A Cal Poly (California Polytechnic State University) student project to help a local military veteran has become a business designed to help patients with Parkinson’s disease overcome a debilitating and dangerous symptom known as “freezing of gait.”
De Oro Devices, based in San Luis Obispo, California, recently edged out six other startups for a $100,000 investment during the second annual Central Coast Angel Conference Pitch Competition held in April by the university.
While working on the project as part of the Quality of Life Plus (QL+) program, which pairs the challenges of wounded vets with student projects, student Sidney Collin piggybacked on research showing that audio and visual cues can interrupt freezing of gait to re-establish the brain-body connection and restore mobility. While those features were integrated into existing devices, they couldn’t be added to a person’s cane or walker. And other devices didn’t provide on-demand cueing. “It was either always on or always off, and that was a problem for a lot of people,” Collin said.
The device, called the Gaitway, is slightly bigger than a computer mouse and easily attaches to a cane or walker. When a patient gets stuck, he or she can activate an audio cue (a metronome beeping noise) or a visual one (a green laser line that projects on the ground), which will interrupt the freezing of gait.