Some inventions are creations of convenience, like the Snap-a-Loop media device holder. Some are fun, like BrickStix. Some are useful in very specific ways, like SnapIt Screw eyeglass repair and the E-sort potato sorter. And some have enormous social potential, like adjustable focus eyeglasses.
The Pacifier Activated Lullaby, or PAL, is a niche invention that falls into that last category, in a marvelous and touching way. Developed by music professor Jayne Standley at Florida State University to help premature babies learn the proper muscle movements to be able to suck and feed.
According to the PAL page at Florida State University,”More than 500,000 premature babies are born in the United States every year, each requiring significant medical treatment to ensure their survival and minimize life-long health challenges.”
Officially, the “Pacifier Activated Lullaby (PAL®) is an FDA-approved, patented system that utilizes music reinforcement therapy to stimulate non-nutritive sucking and the breathe-suck-swallow reflex in pre-term infants.” And results are already producing shorter-term hospital stays with a commensurate reduction in hospitalization costs (on average saving $10,000 per infant) and a higher likelihood that premature babies will thrive once they leave the hospital.
IEEE-Spectrum gives some interesting technical details. “The pacifier is outfitted with proprietary piezo sensing technology that detects the baby’s sucking motion. Feedback algorithms determine when the motion is correct, and a signal is sent via wire to a speaker that plays a soothing song when the baby gets the breathe-suck-swallow reflex right. The system can be calibrated to each baby’s needs.”
Check PAL out at http://www.research.fsu.edu/pal/about.html