Zibrio SmartScale beat out seven other startups in the pitch contest at CES in Las Vegas. See what the company does.
Technology designed to help astronauts improve their balance after spaceflight is getting a new life as a fall-prevention system for older adults.
The Zibrio SmartScale, which measures balance to assess fall risk, beat out seven other startups at the second annual Consumer Technology Association Foundation Pitch event, sponsored by AARP Innovation Labs as part of a week of cutting-edge tech showcases this year at the massive CES Las Vegas electronics show.
Risk factors for falls
The more risk factors a person has, the greater the chance of falling.
• Advanced age
• Chronic conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, dementia, incontinence, Parkinson's
• Fear of falling
• Foot or ankle disorders
• Hazards in the home
• Low blood pressure upon standing
• Low Vitamin D
• Poor balance and gait
• Poor vision
• Previous falls
• Side effects, like dizziness, from medications
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Using a real-time voting app, the audience deemed Zibrio's device most effective at helping older adults “stay in the game” — something that football legend Joe Montana, host of this year's pitch competition, said he could relate to as a professional athlete who has recovered from his fair share of injuries, including those affecting his balance.
Taking steps to minimize fall risk is a concern for all older adults, not just athletes. More than 1 in 4 Americans 65 and older fall each year, making falls the leading cause of accidental death among that age group, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While the science of fall risk factors is well established, many people aren't aware of it — nor do they have a way to monitor or improve their own balance on a day-to-day basis, says Zibrio CEO Katharine Forth, a neuroscientist and motor-control expert who completed a postdoctoral fellowship at NASA, where the SmartScale's balance-sensing technology originated.
Empowerment is a key part of Zibrio's mission, Forth says.
"When [older adults] stand on the scale, suddenly they have a path forward, something that's quantified. That's such a relief, and gives them hope,” she says. “I think that's the most rewarding side of it."