Young Singaporean inventors score international win at the James Dyson Award
The winning team, HOPES, are embarking on clinical trials and hope to make their wearable bio-medical device a commercial reality.17 November 2021
The James Dyson Award is an annual international design competition, aimed at encouraging aspiring engineers and inventors to apply their knowledge and discover new ways to solve problems, improve lives through technology and change the world. Since 2005, James Dyson has contributed over S$186m to boundary-breaking concepts in education and other charitable causes. The competition has also supported nearly 250 inventions with prize monies.
For the first time in all 17 years of the award’s history, a Singapore team has taken the International Winner title with their wearable biomedical device for pain-free, low cost, at-home intra-ocular pressure testing (IOP) – HOPES.
This year’s International winner of the James Dyson Award was inspired by one of the inventors’, Kelu, father’s diagnosis of glaucoma. After witnessing his discomfort and multiple hospital visits, she realised there is a global need for a less invasive and more accessible method for Intraocular Pressure (IOP) monitoring. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide.
In 2020, about 80 million people have glaucoma worldwide, and this is expected to rise to over 111 million by 2040 . In Singapore, approximately three per cent of people over the age of 50 have glaucoma. This percentage increases with age and reaches almost 10 per cent for those over the age of 70. Because it is largely symptom-free, it’s also known as the “silent thief of sight” . There is no cure but, if diagnosed and treated early, blindness can be prevented.
Today, regular IOP monitoring is a critical tool in helping clinicians determine long-term treatment plans and goals. This is achieved through the Goldmann Applanation Tonometry – regarded as the gold standard for the measurement of IOP. There is a demand for safe, accurate, low-cost, at-home IOP measurement devices to better improve the patient experience.
HOPES, (which stands for Home eye Pressure E-skin Sensor) is a wearable biomedical device for pain-free, low cost, at-home IOP testing. Powered by patent pending sensor technology and artificial intelligence, HOPES is a convenient device for users to frequently self-monitor IOP.
After creating a profile in the App, the user wears the HOPES glove with the sensor placed at the fingertip, pressing this against the centre of the eyelid. The fingertip employs a unique sensor architecture that captures dynamic pressure information of the user's eye with sub-millisecond precision. The captured signals are processed by machine learning algorithms to continuously and accurately compute users’ IOP.
Data is transmitted via Bluetooth to paired devices or uploaded to the Cloud to be accessed remotely by clinicians. The App prompts users with easy-to-read measurement history and direct links to healthcare systems, allowing them to seek medical help to minimise future symptoms.
On winning the James Dyson Award International prize, the team said, “We were thrilled to hear from Sir James Dyson that we are this year’s International winners of the James Dyson Award. For us this all started with Kelu and her attempt to create a solution for her father after the problem they faced as a family. With this win, we hope in the future people can measure their eye pressure in a pain-free, at-home environment. We want to improve people’s quality of life and aspire to one day apply our research group’s sensor technology across different health monitoring applications, such as robotics and biomedical devices.”
We caught up with the inventors Yu Kelu, Li Si and David Lee to learn more about their reactions to the news.
Q: Looking back at your journey at the awards – did you think HOPES stood a chance of being the International Winner, and why?
A: We were unsure about whether we stood a chance, as the other submissions for the competition were also very polished and interesting. However, we tried our best to showcase HOPES and the inspiration behind, our design process, and the future we anticipated. We believe it was our strong motivation to solve the problem, and the novelty of our idea that distinguished our entry.
Q: How did you find out about the news, and how did you feel at that point?
A: We were told that we going to join a meeting with one of the judges for the competition and had no idea that Sir James Dyson would be in the meeting. When he joined the meeting, we genuinely still believed that it was a judging session, and that we needed to present our invention. Then he told us that we won, and we were very surprised!
Q: What was going through your mind as James Dyson appeared on camera?
A: We were truly thrilled when we saw Sir James Dyson on camera and thought it was a surprise judging session. We were excited to share about our invention with him, and to hear his thoughts about our invention.
Q: What do you plan to do with HOPES, as well as the prize money?
We will continue to collaborate with local hospitals to collect patients’ eye pressure data, and use them to develop our machine learning model. At the same time, we will improve the design and form factor of HOPES. All of the prize money will go towards further developing HOPES and our tele-health app interface. We are planning to add more user-friendly features like Bluetooth communication, which will enable us to transmit collected data from HOPES to paired devices for real-time viewing. We also hope to attract more funding to facilitate HOPES' commercialisation globally.
Meanwhile, Plastic Scanner took the title of Sustainability Winner, and REACT took the title of Medical Winner. Click here to learn more about their inventions.