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This device will let you feel what it's like to suffer from Parkinson's disease

Christina Farr
This device records the tremors of patients with Parkinson's disease and mimics them on other people.

Imagine actually feeling the symptoms of a loved one with a debilitating disease.

Soon you might be able to, with help of a device from Toronto-based design consultancy Klick Health. The team of doctors, engineers and designers came up with a way to mimic the feeling of having a Parkinson's tremor.

The device is not yet approved for the commercial market, and is still being tested in clinical trials.

But when I tried it at a medical conference called Exponential Medicine in San Diego, I found the experience surprisingly painful and emotional.

What's particularly remarkable about it — and speaks to the broader goal of bringing more empathy to medicine — is that a user can request to feel the precise tremor of a loved one that they're caring for. The idea is that it will inspire a caregiver to feel a stronger personal connection to the person with the disease. "To have the exact symptoms mirroring the person across from you certainly has a level of empathy that's even greater than having a generalized symptom," said Gautam Gulati, the company's health innovator in residence and a physician, whose own father recently passed away from the disease.

Next up, Klick's team is looking at other diseases that involve changes to sensory experiences, including chronic respiratory conditions. The biggest hurdles involve convincing federal regulators that it's safe and effective, and figuring out whether clinicians, patients and caregivers would pay for it.