Five winners of the Ohio Opioid Technology Challenge were announced on Tuesday, a competition that encourages and harnesses new-age approaches to combat the rising opioid epidemic.
Hundreds of breakthrough ideas to curb drug abuse and addiction were submitted to the global technology conference. Of the $20 million committed to opioid prevention and intervention methods, $8 million is allocated to the competition, with increasing prize amounts awarded at each stage of development.
Currently, each of the five winners will receive $10,000 to take their idea to the next phase. Recipients include regular citizens, researchers, and scientists from both the public and private sector.
And there are some seriously cool ideas.
One finalist, Kinametechs LLC, created an "augmented reality-based interactive coaching system" – yes, that's a mouthful. Essentially, patients recently released from surgeries are given high-tech eyeglasses to wear. When worn, the glasses track their wearers' routines once they return home from the hospital. The Cincinnati-based team, known for their range of motion technology, says it allows doctors to customize treatment plans that rely less on opioid medications and more on personal habits.
Then, there's this virtual reality program that's sort of like a video game version of D.A.R.E (yeah, it's still around). Boston-based social venture start-up The Edification Project uses virtual reality technology – rather than a weird pants-less lion – to engage teens in intervention and prevention practices. The company says their VR frames “help frame [teen] attitudes toward avoiding opioid abuse."
Another winner developed a neurofeedback application that essentially tells your brain more about itself. Software engineer Kelly Cashion developed it in collaboration with the University of Dayton Research Institute. The gadget is placed on a person's head and uses sensors to provide real-time information about brain activity. The researchers say it will help addicts understand the effects addiction has on their brain, reduce cravings, and ultimately allow them to regain control of their brain.
You can check out the other contenders here.
Ohio has been deemed the "epicenter" of the epidemic, and in an effort to ditch its reputation has committed to spending $1 billion annually in prevention, education, treatment and recovery, and law enforcement in battling the opioid epidemic.
The next stage begins in late February and runs until July. The third phase will fund the most promising ideas into real products.