Most smartphones use their accelerometers to count steps, among other relatively simple tasks. A new app, however, will use them to counteract motion and steady the screen for individuals with hand tremors, such as the ones associated with Parkinson’s disease.
Developed by Havas Creative, the just-launched app, Staybl, is designed to make digital experiences easier for people dealing with tremors. Dan Lucey, chief creative officer at Havas New York, described it as a “steadicam for your tablet.”
“When you think about people who are suffering from Parkinson’s disease or essential tremors, it’s clear that how they interact with the physical world is compromised,” he said. “But so much of what we do is in the digital world, and it’s not just reading. It’s banking, shopping, communicating with family, keeping up with friends, watching videos. Somebody with tremors might not be able to benefit from being connected to that world, so this is kind of a solution for that.”
Staybl was designed with patients in mind. It uses Atkinson Hyperlegible, a font developed by the Braille Institute that’s regarded as the most readable font for people with impaired vision. The browser allows for adjustable sizing of the font and offers bigger keys for easier navigation.
The Staybl project is meant to improve access for not only older people with Parkinson’s, but for younger people who may suffer from tremors – who are too often ignored by marketers and health technologists alike.
“One of the things I learned during this process is that not everybody who suffers from tremors or Parkinson’s disease is older,” Lucey said. “You think it’s a disease that affects older generations and then you start to talk to different patients, and you find out they’re in their 40s. They still have to work, they still have to parent and they have to interact with the digital world for their livelihood.”
While its current iteration is most useful for individuals with tremors, Staybl could soon evolve into more of an at-home monitoring application or device – to “get even smarter,” as Lucey put it. The app is currently free and, Lucey stressed, Havas isn’t “looking to make any money off it.” He hopes, however, that a tech behemoth like Apple or Google might incorporate the Staybl technology into their browsers and make it more accessible to more people.
In the end, Staybl represents a unique project for a healthcare marketing agency like Havas Creative, but one that nonetheless conveys a traditional message.
“Creating apps for medical situations is not our specialty, but we understand that we have the opportunity to do good in the world with our messaging,” Lucey said. “As advertisers, we’re able to think of ideas that reach millions of people on a daily basis. It’s important to us that our messaging is responsible and can push the world to be a better place, not just push products. That mindset is something we try to incorporate.”