A breath of fresh air for children with breathing problems

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UT researcher Geke Ludden co-developed colourful breathing trainer BRISH 

Bright colours, lights, a place to put your favourite Lego pieces. That is BRISH, a breathing trainer for children with dysfunctional breathing symptoms. This wearable piece of technology was developed by a consortium including UT researcher Geke Ludden and designer Hellen van Rees from Saxion. 
Text: Michaela Nesvarova and Rense Kuipers 

What exactly is BRISH and why was it developed? 

Ludden: ‘It’s a smart wearable for children who have troubles with breathing, such as asthma and other types of dysfunctional breathing. When children are diagnosed with breathing problems, the paediatric physiotherapist provides breathing exercises for children to do at home. However, the children do not always do the exercises – or in the right way – and as a result don’t progress in the therapy as well as they could. BRISH helps with that.’  

How does it work?  

Van Rees: ‘BRISH monitors the child’s breathing using sensors on their chest and stomach. It directly gives them feedback to stimulate the correct breathing pattern. They get haptic feedback in the form of vibrations and the garment has lights, which light up as a sort of reward system. The better the children do, the more lights they get. They can use the lights in a mobile game that is connected to the garment. This motivates them to keep using the trainer.’  

Ludden: ‘It’s meant for children between six and twelve years old. We asked children for feedback, to specifically tune the design to this age group.’ 

What gave you the idea to create this trainer? 

Van Rees: ‘In the past, we co-developed a vest for correcting posture. This caught the attention of a lung specialist at Medisch Spectrum Twente, who thought this type of garment would be very useful for his patients. Following a Pioneers in Healthcare voucher, we have worked closely together with local hospitals MST and ZGT, electronics expert Ben Bulsink and were supported by Menzis. That resulted in this prototype.’  

What are the next steps for BRISH? 

Ludden: ‘We’ve recently secured follow-up funding, to take BRISH from a prototype to a product. In collaboration with several healthcare SME’s and physiotherapists, we are exploring two pathways. First, sticking to the main purpose of BRISH, which is implementation in healthcare. Parallel to that, we are exploring a more commercial route; having a viable business case will also help us to further develop BRISH for healthcare purposes. A win-win situation, that’s what we’re aiming for.  

What’s important for us as researchers isn’t necessarily the product, but what it would mean for people, personalized healthcare and the role of technology in future care settings. There are still so many opportunities in that area, for instance in making the technology work during daily activities and using it both for training and diagnostics. BRISH can be our showcase.’