Son Creates Pebble App to Help His Father with PTSD
You may remember that we reported last week on the developer who created a Pebble application to alert him when his wife was about to have a seizure. Hot on the heels of that feel-good story, we are excited to report now about another terrific use of a Pebble smartwatch.
Tyler Skluzacek is a senior at Macalester College in St. Paul, MN. His father, Patrick, an ex-soldier who suffers from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) as a result of his service in the Iraq war. At a recent 36-hour “hackathon” in Washington D.C. which Tyler attended, participants were encouraged to create tech solutions to help returning service man and women. Tyler initially proposed a social network, but was encouraged to come up with something more direct.
After looking into sleep studies involving PTSD sufferers, Tyler learned that night terrors usually begin as the sufferer enters deep sleep. In fact, service dogs are often employed to sleep with the sufferer. The dog will notice the tremors and gently place their paw on the sufferer at exactly the right time. This is not enough to wake the patient, but it is enough to head off the night terror and so allow uninterrupted and much-needed rest. Does that sound like something that could be reproduced by a smartwatch app? Tyler did. That was the idea for his smartwatch app: myBivy. The name, incidentally, is a reference to “bivouac”—the military term for a temporary camp without cover.
Much like the service that a specially trained dog provides, the app monitors the sufferer’s movements and uses the watch’s vibration motor to give enough stimulus to head off the oncoming nightmare without waking him or her up.
By claiming the top prize at the HackDC, Tyler won enough money to complete a test version for the Pebble and Android, and is currently working on an iOS version. He hopes to release both at once.
While being careful to state that his app isn’t claiming to be a cure for PTSD, it has garnered a lot of attention. The VA has shown great interest, and is trying to fast-track testing on their patients.
Shortly after his win at HackDC, Tyler started a kickstarter campaign which raised more than $26,000. He then went to MobDemo—a developer’s competition in Minneapolis—and won with myBIvy. This has enabled him to gain more funding and marketing support.
And his father? “Going to the VA and getting another anti-depressant is more scary that wearing a watch,” Patrick said. “Within three or four days it was keeping me asleep. It was life-changing.”
Tyler will graduate from college this spring, but is likely to put his graduate school on hold while he concentrates on myBivy. As his team states: “We won’t sleep until the veterans can.”