FSU students create app to detect Alzheimer's, other diseases


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – At Florida State University in Tallahassee, students are creating apps for mobile phones that could help detect Alzheimer's at an early stage, and maybe even a handful of other diseases. The app is just the beginning of how smarter and smarter phones will impact your life.

The new app stores the data it collects on your phone so you're in complete control, so there are no privacy concerns.

Younger people tend to walk in straight lines. Older people tend to sway to the left and right as they age. The same sensors in your smart phone that gauge its orientation may soon be helping doctors monitor their patients. The app is the brain child of computer scientist Dr. Gary Tyson.

"We're looking for this efficiency in the gad and how that degrades over time," said Tyson, of FSU. "That's going to degrade for everybody as we get older. But we think there might be a signature for that degradation (that) occurs in somebody who has a progressive disease."

The app records data on your movement 50 times every second.

"This point of impact actually corresponds to the right leg striking the floor," grad student Leon Brown said.

Brown, a Ph.D. candidate, is working with Tyson on the project.

"I see it being useful in balance clinics," Brown said.

Newer phones have newer accelerometers which means this project is only scratching the surface of what's possible.

The app is already showing great promise in the training student athletes.

"Understanding how you are doing on a day to day basis is valuable for everybody, whether it's a hangover or cold or whatever," said Tyson. "We can capture that information by just looking at how your phone is moving in your pocket."

Tyson and his students have also developed an app that can judge when a person has fallen and can't get up. The app will notify emergency officials or family automatically.