research and development

Automatic Nail Trimmer

                            Precise Automatic Nail Trimmer To Aid Foot Care Of The Elderly

Project Description

ASTER Labs’ Nail Trimmer program’s goal is to reduce burden, physical strain, and emotional stress on elderly adults and others with limited flexibility and mobility by providing a system that accurately trims users' toenails to medically-recommended lengths and contours, while also utilizing advanced image processing and databasing techniques to provide a preliminary general assessment of nail health. The system design includes multiple redundant safety features for rapid cessation if desired by the patient or if significant toe movement is detected, as well as features to optimize comfort during device use.

By providing seniors and caregivers with a novel, technically advanced, but practical toenail care tool, they have on-demand access within the comfort of their own homes or care facilities, increasing the regularity of foot care. To provide an accurate, optimized solution and reduce struggle with this task, while ensuring safety, ASTER Labs, Inc. has constructed a hands-free robotic nail trimming system that utilizes optical and infrared image processing techniques, as well as data fingerprinting algorithms, to assist the elderly and caregivers who tend to podiatric care.

Societal Benefits

The rapidly growing elderly population in America faces increasing physical challenges that make routine podiatric care, and toenail trimming in particular, an extremely difficult task for the majority of this group of people. An estimated 1 in 3 people over age 65 are physically unable to cut their own toenails, and 77% of those surveyed admit to difficulty in performing this essential task for routine podiatric health. On average, shoulder abduction and hip flexion decrease 5 to 7 degrees per decade from age 55, and over a degree per year from age 70. This reduced flexibility combined with diminished eyesight and motor control result in feet being one of the most neglected body parts for the elderly.

The risk of injury and discomfort resulting from improper nail trimmings, or care avoidance due to the associated difficulty, is a great concern and burden for seniors. As nail changes and disorders increase in frequency with age, lack of routine nail care has been shown to heighten risk of injury, pain, infection, and other complications, significantly reduce mobility, and increase fall frequency. ASTER Labs, Inc. seeks to mitigate this risk by developing a highly accurate automatic nail trimming device to provide regular on-demand in-home or in-facility routine podiatric care.

Broader Impacts

The commercial market for technical solutions for routine nail care is sizeable, and the increase in the geriatric population base, per capita healthcare expenditure, and penetration rate of healthcare information technology are driving this market. While Medicare services cover routine foot care for seniors with a limited set of complications, requirements for coverage have made it difficult for many older adults to receive this service, and a quarter of all claims filed for toenail cutting lack adequate documentation to support coverage. Nail-related Medicare coverage equates to an estimated $96.8 million each year, and frequent professional non-Medicare-covered nail cutting services become increasingly costly and inconvenient for seniors. Direct caregivers tasked with performing this service face great difficulty in safely and comfortably trimming the nail. This is especially true caring for patients with limited flexibility, thickened toenails, or who experience tremors.

The Nail Trimmer system will be made commercially available to care providers, their facilities, and consumers. This solution, which combines optical and infrared cameras and embedded sensors, can be produced at low-cost due to availability of inexpensive chip-scale sensor technology, driven by the economies of scale associated with smartphone and machine vision proliferation. In addition, proprietary image processing algorithms interpret real-time foot motion to ensure precise and safe operation. Despite the advanced electronics package, this highly unique device is comfortable, user-friendly, and easy to clean and sterilize, and thus highly marketable and appealing as a commercial product.

National Institutes of Health Project Description     



Physical and emotional challenges exist for elderly persons and their caregivers, who perform regular toenail care