Two Tokyo-Based Med Tech Startups Make Breakthroughs

With medical and nursing care technology thriving, two Tokyo startups are making remarkable strides: Triple W Japan and Holoeyes.

When Holoeyes MD is worn, the 3D surgical data on organs and other parts of the body is projected in the professional’s VR headset as if they could touch them.Courtesy of Holoeyes

The World’s First Wearable Device for Predicting Urination

Tokyo-based Triple W Japan has developed DFree, a wearable urinary incontinence gauge that uses ultrasound technology to monitor when users need to relieve themselves. At approximately 26 grams and equipped with an ultrasound sensor, this compact gadget is worn on the lower abdomen and measures bladder distension in real time. It connects to a user’s iPhone or a dedicated device to indicate how much urine has accumulated on a 10-point scale and sends a notification when it’s time to go to the bathroom.

Nakanishi Atsushi, the CEO of Triple W Japan, holds D Free, an ultrasound device that monitors when users need to relieve themselves.TONOMURA SEIJI

The ability to predict when a user will have to urinate could help lessen anxiety when going out for those struggling with bladder control in their daily life. It will also help caregivers guide their patients to the bathroom in time, facilitating mess-free urination.

Nakanishi Atsushi, who founded Triple W Japan in 2015, said that excretory care is a common challenge across the globe. “About 400 million people are said to have excretory problems worldwide,” Nakanishi explained. “That includes not just the elderly but also those receiving in-home care after a stroke, those with mild dementia and youths with intellectual impairments. In a lot of cases,” Nakanishi said, “these people may not make it to the bathroom in time or may not be able to communicate their needs. Giving up on measures meant to support their independence that would have otherwise been successful, they start using disposable diapers instead.”

For in-home-care users, the D Free device is sold as a set with a small tabletop tablet (left) for displaying notifications. TONOMURA SEIJI

Nakanishi said that he wanted to start a business in the health care field with a more global perspective, inspired by his experiences as a Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) overseas volunteer and studying abroad in the United States. Together with some classmates, he researched the idea of a wearable device that could predict when a user would need to urinate. Eventually, they were able to make available to the public the world’s only long-term bladder-monitoring device with ultrasound technology. It’s now widely used in clinical examinations. The product was rolled out in collaboration with Tokyo Metropolitan Hiroo Hospital and Tokyo Metropolitan Bokutoh Hospital. The majority of patients saw an improvement in their level of urinary independence.

“Our product is now being used at about 300 facilities nationwide,” Nakanishi elaborated, “and we’ve expanded into 20 countries around the world. Bathroom-related problems affect people’s sense of dignity, and being able to urinate without issue can help reinvigorate people’s lives. Moving forward, we want to further our development and make it possible to predict bowel movements by monitoring the large intestine.”

The D Free in-home-care model (left) has a dedicated app with an easy-to-read indicator.Courtesy of Triple W Japan Inc.

The age tech market, which centers on the needs of older adults to support them in their daily life, is gaining momentum worldwide. Devices like Triple W’s D Free and its bowel monitor, which are effective in assisting people with bathroom issues go by themselves and gain independence, in turn help reduce the heavy burden of nursing care.

Bringing Advanced Medical Techniques to the Masses With VR

Tokyo-based Holoeyeswas founded in 2016 as a tag-team effort between a practicing surgeon and a VR app engineer. Together they developed the medical imaging software Holoeyes MD, which helps medical professionals by converting computed radiography (CR) and MRI images into 3D models in as little as 10 minutes. When Holoeyes MD is worn, the 3D surgical data on organs and other parts of the body is projected in the professional’s VR headset as if they could touch them. The technology can be used during preoperative planning meetings and for training, as well.

Wearers of Holoeyes MD are able to grab and rotate the 3D internal images virtually, by hand, to view them from different angles. Courtesy of Holoeyes

Holoeyes MD is now the only medical imaging device to be certified in Japan, establishing evidence of its efficacy and facilitating its use in hospitals. Nakamura Kazuya, the business manager for Holoeyes, explained, “VR simulations are helpful for training students and junior physicians, too.”

Establishing Efficacy With Support From TMG

Triple W Japan and Holoeyes were both selected for the King Salmon Project, an initiative run by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) to support startups. Through the project, TMG helps promising startups have their products and services adopted on-site by metropolitan government departments and expand their business overseas

Nakamura Kazuya, the business manager for Holoeyes, said that Holoeyes MD’s rapid development was the result of the teamwork between a surgeon and a software engineer specializing in VR applications.TONOMURA SEIJI

User feedback is essential in spreading and improving new technologies, but the barrier to entry for new devices is high in the medical and nursing care world. With support from TMG, Triple W Japan and Holoeyes were both able to establish their product efficacy at Tokyo metropolitan hospitals, leading to major breakthroughs for the companies. They have now expanded their sales channels overseas, and investors are sure to be keen on these fast-growing Tokyo-based startups.

These companies, just two examples of the many currently in Japan, show that the possibilities for innovation are infinite, not only within the country but abroad, as well. Said Nakamura, “If more doctors are able to acquire more knowledge and expertise, we can open up fields of discipline that have only been mastered by a handful of veterans.”

The World’s First Wearable Device for Predicting Urination


Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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