Posts with «health» label

Weight loss app Noom gets into mental health coaching

Since 2011, Noom has made a name for itself as a weight loss app. This week, with the introduction of a new feature called Noom Mood, it’s expanding into mental wellness. If you’ve already tried the aforementioned weight loss program, you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from Noom Mood.

As you embark on the four-month program, each day the app will provide you with articles and activities centered on teaching you skills you can use to manage and regulate the stress and emotions in your life. Along the way, you’ll be asked to log your mood, and if you ever need additional help, the program includes access to a personal coach.

It’s not surprising to see Noom expand beyond weight loss. It always had a mindfulness streak, and it must be said there’s a lot of money to be made in the health and wellness space. Over the course of the pandemic, a company like Headspace went from a relatively obscure startup to one that now has a $3 billion valuation and partnerships with companies like Netflix and Waze.

The best fitness trackers you can buy

The fitness tracker isn’t dead, and if you’re reading this, you’re probably one of the people keeping these little devices alive. Smartwatches have all but taken over the mainstream wearable space, but the humble fitness tracker remains an option for those who want a gadget to do one thing right all the time. Despite the headwinds, there are still a bunch of fitness bands out there to choose from. Engadget has tested many of them and picked out the best for most people.

What do fitness trackers do best?

The answer seems simple: Fitness trackers are best at monitoring exercise, be it a 10-minute walk around the block or that half marathon you’ve been diligently training for. Obviously, smartwatches can do that too, but there are some areas where fitness bands have the upper hand: focus, design, battery life and price.

When I say “focus,” I’m alluding to the fact that fitness trackers are made to track activity well; anything else is extra. They often don’t have the bells and whistles that smartwatches do, which could distract from their activity-tracking abilities. They also tend to have fewer sensors and internal components, which keeps them smaller and lighter. Fitness trackers are also a better option for those who just want a less conspicuous device on their wrists all day.

Battery life tends to be better on fitness trackers, too. While most smartwatches last one to two days on a single charge, fitness bands will last five days to one week — and that’s with all-day and all-night use.

When it comes to price, there’s no competition. Most worthwhile smartwatches start at $175 to $200, but you can get a solid fitness tracker starting at $70. Yes, more expensive bands exist (and we recommend a few here), but you’ll find more options under $150 in the fitness tracker space than in the smartwatch space.

When to get a smartwatch instead

If you need a bit more from your wearable, you’ll likely want a smartwatch instead. There are things like on-watch apps, alerts and even more robust fitness features that smartwatches have and fitness trackers don’t. You can use one to control smart home appliances, set timers and reminders, check weather reports and more. Some smartwatches let you choose which apps you want to receive alerts from, and the options go beyond just call and text notifications.

But the extra fitness features are arguably the most important thing to think about when deciding between a fitness tracker and a smartwatch. The latter devices tend to be larger, giving them more space for things like GPS, barometers, onboard music storage and more. While you can find built-in GPS on select fitness trackers, it’s not common.

Engadget picks

Best overall: Fitbit Charge 5

Valentina Palladino / Engadget

Fitbit's Charge 5 has everything most people would want in a fitness tracker. First and foremost, it's not a smartwatch. That means it has a slightly lower profile on the wrist and lasts days on a single charge while tracking activity and sleep. It also has a full-color AMOLED display — a big improvement from the smaller, grayscale screen on last year's Charge 4. That display, along with a thinner design, make Charge 5 feel more premium than its predecessor.

But it also costs $180 — $30 more than the Charge 4 — and that's due in part to the design upgrades but also some additional features. The Charge 5 has EDA sensors for stress tracking and it will eventually support ECG measurements and Daily Readiness Scores (the latter is for only for Premium subscribers). Those are on top of existing features that were carried over from the Charge 4 — most notably, Fitbit Pay support and built-in GPS. The former lets you pay for coffee or groceries with a swipe of your wrist, while the latter helps map outdoor runs, bike rides and other activities. Built-in GPS remains the star of the show here — it's fast and accurate, making the Charge 5 the best option if you want a do-it-all wearable that’s focused on fitness.

Buy Charge 5 at Amazon - $180

Alternative: Garmin Vivosmart 4


A more subtle-looking alternative is the $100 Garmin Vivosmart 4. It’s thinner than the Charge 5 and fits in a bit better with bracelets and other jewelry you might wear regularly. But its attractive design is only part of its appeal — Garmin knows how to track fitness, and the Vivosmart 4 is proof that you don’t need to drop hundreds on one of the company’s fitness watches to get a capable device.

Like the Charge 5, the Vivosmart 4 tracks all-day activity and sleep and has a pulse ox sensor for blood oxygen saturation measurements. It has only connected GPS capabilities, and it has universal music controls that can control the playback of most anything. The band is also waterproof and can track basic swim workouts, plus it also has a battery life of up to seven days. While it’s similar to the Charge 5 in that the Vivosmart 4 works with both Android and iOS devices, it’s a bit more flexible as it syncs with Apple Health (the Charge 5 and other Fitbit devices do not).

Buy Vivosmart 4 at Amazon - $130

Best budget: Fitbit Inspire 2

Fitbit / Tile

If you only have $100 to spare, the Fitbit Inspire 2 is the best option. It strips out all the luxury features from the Charge 5 and keeps only the essentials. You won’t get built-in GPS, Fitbit Pay or Spotify control but you do get excellent activity tracking, automatic workout detection, smartphone alerts and plenty more. As the updated version of the Inspire HR, the Inspire 2 includes a heart rate monitor, which the device uses to keep track of all-day heart rate, active zone minutes, sleep stages and more.

The Inspire HR is thinner than the Charge 5 but it also has interchangeable bands, so you can switch up its style whenever you feel like it. Its design is also swimproof, and it should last up to 10 days on a single charge. Fitbit also recently added Tile-tracking to the Inspire 2, allowing you to find your misplaced band using the Bluetooth locator feature and the Tile mobile app. All of these features make it the best value fitness tracker you can get.

Buy Inspire 2 at Fitbit - $100

Alternative: Samsung Galaxy Fit 2


The $60 Samsung Galaxy Fit 2 band is almost like a more affordable Garmin Vivosmart 4. The two trackers share the same skeletal design but the Galaxy Fit looks a bit more utilitarian — you can swap out its bands, though — something you can’t do on Garmin’s device.

We haven’t given the Fit 2 the full review treatment, but Engadget’s Cherlynn Low was impressed with the original Galaxy Fit: the Tizen-based interface is colorful and easy to use, and plenty of people will appreciate its durable, no-nonsense design. It tracks a bunch of workouts as well and even has auto-exercise recognition. That’s on top of its daily activity tracking and sleep monitor, all of which uses the built-in heart rate monitor to collect pulse data throughout the day.

The kicker for the Galaxy Fit 2 is battery life — the tiny tracker can last for up to 15 days on a single charge, and you can even extend it to 21 days if you change some settings. That’s much longer than most competing bands, so even if Samsung isn’t as comprehensive as Garmin or Fitbit is when it comes to fitness data collection and analysis, the Galaxy Fit 2 is a good option for those who want a basic tracker that they can safely forget to charge each night.

Buy Galaxy Fit 2 at Amazon - $60

Most fashionable: Withings Move


All of the previously mentioned fitness trackers are attractive in their own way (bonus points to those that have interchangeable bands), but they share a similar look. There aren’t many alternative designs for these devices anymore. The $70 Withings Move watch is an exception, and one of the most traditionally fashionable fitness trackers you can get. It’s an analog watch with a couple of health monitoring features including step, calorie, distance and sleep tracking, connected GPS, auto-recognition for more than 30 workouts and a water-resistant design. But we really love it for its button-cell battery, which can last up to 18 months before needing a replacement.

Buy Withings Move at Amazon - $70

Apple is reportedly exploring ways to use AirPods as health devices

Apple's health ambitions for AirPods might extend beyond using them to boost conversations. Wall Street Journalsources claim Apple is exploring multiple ways it can use AirPods as health devices. It might use the buds as hearing aids, but it could also use the motion sensors to correct your posture. A prototype would even include a thermometer to check your core body temperature, according to leaked documents.

The features wouldn't show up in 2022 and might not be available at all, the sources said. Apple declined to comment.

Apple would face numerous hurdles to marketing AirPods as health gadgets. The company would likely require regulatory clearance for at least some features. A US Food and Drug Administration ruleset due in 2022 might make that possible, but it could still take months to approve the earbuds. Even Bose had to wait a long time before it could sell its FDA-cleared SoundControl hearing aids.

There are technical challenges, too. Right now, AirPods Pro won't last longer than 4.5 hours for listening (with noise cancelling on), and 3.5 hours for calls — that just wouldn't be practical for health wearables that might need to sit in your ears all day. They'd also need to be comfortable for long periods and adapt to varying types of hearing loss.

It's easy to see why Apple might expand the AirPods' usefulness, though. As with the Apple Watch, health could be a selling point that grow the audience beyond the enthusiast core. It might also court a relatively underserved market of people who may have mild or moderate hearing loss, but either can't afford most hearing aids or don't like the limited functionality and drab designs that often define the category.

WHO approves the world's first malaria vaccine

In a landmark announcement today, the World Health Organization has recommended the use of the first-ever malaria vaccine. RTS,S, also known as Mosquirix. Specifically, the WHO says it should be deployed for children in sub-Saharan Africa and other areas where with moderate to high malaria transmission. The announcement follows in the footsteps of huge vaccine advancements around the COVID-19 pandemic. To be clear, though, RTS,S isn't an mRNA vaccine, which have the potential to make an even bigger impact on malaria and other diseases that have affected humans for ages.

“This is a historic moment. The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control,” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement. “Using this vaccine on top of existing  tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year.”

RTS,S has an efficacy rate of preventing 39 percent against malaria cases and 29 percent of severe cases, based on trials in Africa involving small children. That may seem particularly low, but when combined with other anti-malarial tools, like bed netting with insecticide, the WHO says the vaccine could potentially save tens of thousands of lives annually. The organization estimates that more than 260,000 African children die from malaria every year.

Crucially, the WHO also says RTS,S can be deployed easily, is safe to use and is cost effective to roll out. According to The Guardian, the company behind the vaccine, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), says it will supply up to 15 million doses annual at no more than 5 percent of the production cost. The WHO and GSK are looking for additional sources of funding from partners and governments. 

RTS,S is just the start, though. Thanks to mRNA-based technology, which can teach our bodies how to respond to specific diseases, Oxford University's R21 vaccine is up to 77 percent effective when it comes to preventing malaria. And based on tests so far, it's proven to be safe.     

"For centuries, malaria has stalked sub-Saharan Africa, causing immense personal suffering,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said in a statement. “Today’s recommendation offers a glimmer of hope for the continent which shoulders the heaviest burden of the disease and we expect many more African children to be protected from malaria and grow into healthy adults.”

Alexa Together turns your loved one's Echo into an emergency support device

Last year, Amazon announced Alexa Care Hub, a free service that uses Alexa to let people check in on family members. The so-called "caregiver" can see notifications and alerts when someone uses Alexa as a way of letting you know that someone they want to keep an eye on is up and about. It also lets the "care receiver" say "Alexa, call for help" and it'll contact the caregiver immediately. Amazon didn't charge for this, but today it's adding a new feature called Alexa Together to the service. It'll be a $20/month service that gives an aging family member 24/7 access to Urgent Response, which Amazon describes as a professional emergency help line. 

Alexa Together will also make caregiving easier to share among multiple family members by letting multiple people be designated as support contacts for a single individual. Other features include support for third-party devices that can detect when someone has fallen at home, the ability to add contacts to an individual's Alexa account so they can make hands-free calls, and set reminders on someone else's device or link up a music service for them to play tunes through. 

At a high level, it sounds like Alexa Together basically makes it easier for other people to manage a family member's Alexa-capable device so they use it more. And if they use it more, the caregiver will see that it's being used and know their family member is going about their normal day. It's a bit convoluted, but the 24/7 access to Urgent Response might be worth the $20 per month cost. Alexa Together will have a free six-month trial period (or one full year if you've been using the Alexa Care Hub already) when it launches later this year.

Alexa Together is designed to help aging family members feel more comfortable and confident living independently, and to give the entire family peace of mind. With Alexa Together, aging loved ones have 24/7 hands-free access to Urgent Response, a professional emergency helpline.

— Amazon News (@amazonnews) September 28, 2021

Follow all of the news from Amazon’s fall hardware event right here!

Apple is reportedly working on mental health monitoring using iPhone data

Apple is reportedly working on ways to help detect and diagnose conditions such as depression, anxiety and cognitive decline using an iPhone. Researchers hope that analysis of data such as mobility, sleep patterns and how people type could spot behaviors associated with those conditions, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Other measurements could include facial expression analysis and heart and respiration rates. All of the processing would take place on the device, with no data sent to Apple servers.

The company is working on research projects that could lead to the development of these features. The University of California, Los Angeles, is studying stress, anxiety and depression, with Apple Watch and iPhone data for 3,000 volunteers being tracked in a study that starts this year. A pilot phase that began in 2020 recorded data from 150 participants.

Researchers will compare data captured from iPhone and Watch sensors with questionnaires participants fill out about how they feel, according to the report. They're also said to be measuring the level of the stress hormone cortisol in participants' hair follicles. Apple and UCLA announced the three-year study in August 2020.

Another research project is underway that may factor into this Apple project. The company and pharmaceutical firm Biogen said in January they're working on a two-year study to monitor cognitive function and perhaps spot mild cognitive impairment, which has the potential to develop into Alzheimer’s. The plan is to track around 20,000 participants, around half of whom have high risk of cognitive impairment.

If data from the studies lines up with symptoms of depression or anxiety, Apple could use it to create a feature that warns users if it sees signs of a mental health condition. The iPhone could prompt users to seek care, which could be important as early detection can improve quality of life in the long run.

Apple and its partners are in the early stages of this work, so it'll likely be a few years at least before the company adds mental health monitoring features to the iPhone. There's no guarantee the research will lead to such features at all.

Some previous studies have indicated people with certain conditions use devices differently than other folks. It's not yet clear whether developers can build algorithms that can detect mental health conditions reliably and accurately.

Still, there's no smoke without fire. Health has been a growing focus for Apple over the past few years, so there's a chance features based on this research will eventually emerge.

FTC rules that health apps must notify consumers affected by data breaches

Since 2009, companies handling health records have been required to notify consumers if their data is breeched. Now, the rule has been extended to health apps that track fitness, vital statistics, sleep and more. The FTC ruled 3-2 that companies producing such apps must inform users impacted by data breaches, lest they face a financial penalty of over $43,000 per day, The Hill has reported. 

"As many Americans turn to apps and other technologies to track diseases, diagnoses, treatment, medications, fitness, fertility, sleep, mental health, diet, and other vital areas, this Rule is more important than ever," the FTC wrote in the ruling. "Firms offering these services should take appropriate care to secure and protect consumer data."

A more fundamental problem is the commodification of sensitive health information, where companies can use this data to feed behavioral ads or power user analytics.

Recent high-profile breaches include UnderArmour's MyFitnessPal breach that affected 150 million users in 2018. A more recent data leak came about due to an exposed server that contained 61 million records related to fitness trackers and wearables that exposed Apple and Fitbit users' data online.  

The rule passed along party lines, with the majority Democratic commissioners voting 3-2 in favor. However, the Republican commissioners dissented because the FTC was already working on revamping health breach notification rules. "The right way to go about it is to conclude the ongoing rulemaking process, especially when the statutory and regulatory interpretation on which the majority rely is far from clear," said commissioner Noah Phillips. 

FTC Chair Lina Khan said the ruling is just the start of what's needed. "A more fundamental problem is the commodification of sensitive health information, where companies can use this data to feed behavioral ads or power user analytics," Khan said. "The Commission should be scrutinizing what data is being collected in the first place and whether particular types of business models create incentives that necessarily place users at risk."

Hitting the Books: How Florence Nightingale changed medicine using stats and 'rose charts'

During Crimean War, hospitals of the day weren't so much centers of healing or recovery as they were the places where injured combatants went to die slightly more slowly. Turkey's Scutari hospital was one such notorious example. Converted by the British Empire from army barracks, Scutari lacked every imaginable amenity, from basic sanitation to sufficient ventilation, this "hospital" served as a potent incubator for myriad infectious diseases — that is until Florence Nightingale and her team of volunteer nurses arrived in 1854. 

Maladies of Empire by Jim Downs explores how many aspects of modern medicine are borne on the backs of humanity's most abhorrent impulses, though in the excerpt below, Downs illustrates how one woman's unyielding tenacity and fastidious record keeping helped launch the field of preventative medicine.

Belknap Press

Excerpted from MALADIES OF EMPIRE: HOW COLONIALISM, SLAVERY, AND WAR TRANSFORMED MEDICINE by JIM DOWNS, published by The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Copyright © 2021 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

While in Scutari, Nightingale developed a system of record keeping that tracked a variety of factors at the Barrack Hospital and the nearby General Hospital. She took notes on everything from cleanliness to the quantity of supplies to diet to the placement of latrines and graveyards.

She also carefully examined the physical space. She took careful note of the size of the wards, the condition of the roof, and the quality, size, and placement of the windows. In her book on the health of the British army, like Thomas Trotter and others who wrote about the importance of fresh air, she pointed to the problem of improper ventilation, and she devoted an entire section to “bad ventilation.” She quoted the report of the sanitary commission, which remarked on the “defective state of the ventilation” in the Barrack Hospital. There were only “a few small openings here and there,” so that there was no way for the “hot and foul” air to escape. As an adherent of the miasma theory, she believed that diseases were spread through the air and advocated for ventilation to release the “foul air” from hospitals.

In addition to inadequate ventilation, Nightingale pointed to poor drainage and badly designed sewers and plumbing. In her testimony to the royal commission, Nightingale reported on the filthy conditions she found in the Barrack Hospital when she arrived. “The state of the privies... for several months, more than an inch deep in filth, is too horrible to describe.” She observed six dead dogs under one of the windows, and a dead horse lay in the aqueduct for weeks. The drinking water was dirty; once she saw used hospital uniforms in the water tank. Rats and insects abounded, and “the walls and ceilings were saturated with organic matter.”

In the conclusion to her report on the health of the British Army, she explained, “We have much more information on the sanitary history of the Crimean campaign than we have upon any other, but because it is a complete exam (history does not afford its equal) of an army, after failing to the lowest ebb of disease and disaster from neglects committed, rising again to the highest state of health and efficiency from remedies applied.

"It is the whole experiment on a colossal scale.” She pointed out that during the first seven months of the Crimean campaign, mortality exceeded that of the plague of 1665 as well as that of recent cholera epidemics. But during the last six months of the war, after sanitary reforms had been made, “we had... a mortality among our sick little more than that among our healthy Guards at home.”

Using mortality data that she had collected during the war, along with domestic mortality statistics, Nightingale showed that between 1839 and 1853, mortality among soldiers was much higher than among civilian men: “of 10,000 soldiers [at the age of 20], 7,077 live to the age of 39, out of whom 135 die in the next year of age; whereas out of 10,000 civilians at the age of 20, 8,253 attain the age of 39, and of those 106 die in the year of age following.” Nearly all mortality among soldiers was the result of disease; “actual losses in battle form a very small part of the calamities of a long war.” Nightingale classified the causes of death as “zymotic diseases” (which in the nineteenth century referred to infectious diseases such as fevers, measles, and cholera), “chest and tubercular diseases,” and “all other diseases (including violent deaths).” Nightingale was critical of the army’s classification system for diseases. At the bottom of a chart, she notes, “Bronchitis and influenza have no place in the Army nomenclature. The chronic catarrh of the Army Returns is believed to be really phthisis, in the great majority of cases; acute catarrh comprehends both epidemic catarrh, or influenza and bronchitis.”

Nightingale presented statistics using charts, tables, and diagrams, which were just beginning to appear in research reports, to make it easier for readers to visualize the comparison she was making. She developed a new kind of graphic, called a “rose chart,” also known as a coxcomb chart or polar area diagram, to present mortality data from the Crimean War. Each chart, which is laid out like a pie, shows data from one year, with the slices representing months. Each slice is divided into colored segments whose area is proportional to the number of deaths.

One segment is for deaths from wounds, a second for “preventable or mitigable zymotic diseases,” and a third for all other causes. A quick glance at the charts of deaths from April 1854 to March 1855 and April 1855 to March 1856 is enough to show that many more deaths were caused by disease than by combat, and that overall mortality decreased in the second year.

To further make visible the dangers of unsanitary hospitals, Nightingale gathered mortality data for matrons, nuns, and nurses working in fifteen London hospitals who died of the “zymotic diseases” of fever and cholera. She presented tables, which she notes William Farr compiled for her, showing that the mortality rate of the nursing staff was much higher than that of the female population in London; in addition, women working in hospitals were more likely to die of zymotic diseases than were other women. She used these figures to argue for the “very great importance” of hygiene in hospitals. “The loss of a well-trained nurse by preventible [sic] disease,” she wrote, “is a greater loss than is that of a good soldier from the same cause. Money cannot replace either, but a good nurse is more difficult to find than a good soldier.”

In her book Notes on Hospitals, she retold the story of the British prisoners of war who died in a crowded jail cell in India in 1756: “Shut up 150 people in a Black hole of Calcutta, and in twenty-four hours an infection is produced so intense that it will, in that time, have destroyed nearly the whole of the inmates.” Nightingale’s reference to the case is evidence for its status as the prototypical illustration of the need for ventilation. And the fact that it took place in India shows how British medical authorities used information from around the empire.

As a result of her work with large numbers of patients in the Crimean War, Nightingale framed her analysis like an epidemiologist, in terms of populations. She focused on how disease spread within a group. She devoted her energies not to changing bedpans or dressing wounds but to studying the structure of hospitals, analyzing statistics, and figuring out how to increase ventilation.

The war provided her the opportunity to compare mortality rates in varied settings: crowded hospitals, shabby tents, and wooden huts. It also underscored to her the importance of preventive measures, which constitutes one of the major tenets of modern epidemiology. By publishing her observations, her insights, and guidelines for hospitals to follow, she hoped to provide a set of rules and guidelines for physicians to follow to prevent the spread of disease. While efforts to ensure proper hygiene as a way to guard against illness can be traced to Mesopotamian civilization and Sanskrit writings from 2000 BCE, Nightingale’s warnings, in particular, and sanitary reform, more generally, sparked a critical turning point in the middle of the nineteenth century that gave rise to preventive medicine. This transformed military medicine from an enterprise that largely focused on treatment and surgery to one that began to engage epidemiological questions and issues.

Fitbit’s Charge 5 packs an ECG and stress response sensor

The trickle-down of features from Fitbit’s higher-end wearables to its everyday fitness trackers continues with the Charge 5. This new edition of the device is packing both ECG and EDA sensors, both of which were first found in the higher-end Sense, to better help you monitor your heart health and stress. Charge 5 also gets a few quality-of-life improvements compared to its predecessor, including a new body that’s 10 percent thinner and a new color AMOLED display with an always-on option.

But the real point of this new tech is to integrate the Fitbit into your daily health routines as something more than just a tracker. The ECG sensor will, naturally, help you check your heart’s electrical activity and check for signs of atrial fibrillation. The EDA, or Electrodermal Activity sensor (itself a fancier term for Galvanic Skin Response) is designed to measure the perspiration of your hands, which can be a marker for stress. As with the Sense, users can then be coached through a stress-reduction session if their stats get too aggressive.

Fitbit is also looking to bolster its $10-per-month Premium offering to encourage more of its hardware users to sign up to a monthly subscription. That includes a new Daily Readiness Score, which sounds a lot like Garmin’s Body Battery calculation, which will examine how ready you are to work out. It’ll do that by looking at your heart rate variability, recent sleep schedule and activity to judge if you should hit the treadmill or the couch that day.

Premium will also get a new collection of workouts from Les Mills to help coach you through the workout du jour. In addition, Fitbit is partnering with Calm, and Premium users will get access to “30 pieces of Calm content in seven languages,” with users able to run an EDA scan at the same time as listening to a Calm-created mindfulness session. Or they will be, since the material is expected to arrive at some point in September.

The Fitbit Charge 5 is available to pre-order today, and will cost $179.95 complete with six months of Fitbit Premium thrown in.

This ingestible robot delivers insulin to your body without external needles

Researchers from Italy have created a robot that could one day allow diabetes patients to get a dose of insulin without any needles. PILLSID involves two separate parts. One component is an internal insulin dispenser that a doctor would surgically implant in your abdomen. The other is a magnetic capsule loaded with the hormone.

Anytime you need to refill the dispenser, you take one of the pills, and it travels down your digestive system until it reaches the point where the device is implanted near your small intestine. Using the power of magnets, the device rotates the capsule into position and then punctures it with a retractable needle and pumps the refill of insulin into a reservoir. The cool thing here is that the dispenser charges wirelessly, limiting the number of interventions a doctor needs to maintain the device. Once the capsule is empty, it continues its trip down your digestive system until you eventually poop it out. Good times.

On the surface, the system may sound scary, but in a lot of ways, it’s preferable to many of the current tools you can use as a type 1 diabetes patient to regulate your blood sugar levels. Insulin pumps, for instance, involve a tube or needle that you need to self-administer. One jab might not be so bad, but some people need to get multiple injections per day. "Maybe it's scary to think about a docking station inside the body, but it worked," Arianna Menciassi, one of the co-authors of the study, told IEEE Spectrum. Unintuitively, this is a much less intrusive system, and it has the potential to be useful for administering other life-saving drugs.

In a test involving three diabetic pigs, the research team found the system could successfully manage their insulin levels for several hours. In some instances, they found bodily fluids from the pigs would leak into the robot. So as a next step, the team is working on sealing the device better.

While it will likely be some time before PILLSID makes its way to hospitals, devices that attend to your medical needs from inside your body are likely to become more and more common. In 2016, for instance, MIT showed off an origami robot that can pick up objects from inside your intestine.