Precise Automatic Nail Trimmer to Aid Foot Care of the Elderly

Period of Performance: 09/30/2015 - 08/31/2016


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

ASTER Labs, Inc.
Principal Investigator


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): 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. Pedicures are particularly risky and dangerous for elders with arthritis and other afflictions causing reduced sensitivity in feet. 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. 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. Surveys of currently available technologies to assist the elderly with nail trimming show limited results, and existing solutions still require substantial bending to reach their toes, or sufficien strength to squeeze clippers attached to long lever arms. There exists an unmet need to support older adults and their caregivers by providing a high precision, safe, automatic nail trimming solution that facilitates routine foot care. To provide an accurate, optimized solution and reduce struggle with this task, while ensuring safety, ASTER Labs, Inc. proposes to construct a hands-free robotic nail trimming system to assist the elderly and caregivers who tend to podiatric care. The 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 t 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 will have on-demand access within the comfort of their own homes or care facilities, increasing the regularity of foot care. For this innovative concept design, ASTER Labs will utilize optical and infrared image processing techniques, as well as data fingerprinting algorithms, to create a highly unique, but practical solution for accurate in-home toenail care for the elderly.