Build 2017: The story of Project Emma, raising hope for Parkinson’s disease

Kareem Anderson

Microsoft wove together several real-life use cases into powerful stories that helped to shape the company’s vision of the future while also helping contribute to the engineering pursuits displayed at this year’s developer’s conference, Build 2017.

One of the stories that tugged at the heart strings today was about how a Windows 10 tablet and a prototype wristwatch that helped a young lady suffering from Parkinson’s, continue her life’s pursuit of graphic design, code named Project Emma.

With the host of demos, acronyms and newly announced products and features, one would be forgiven not remembering the details of Emma’s story delivered during Build today.

Fortunately, Microsoft had a detailed blog post queued up for the curious.

Lawton, a graphic designer, was diagnosed with the movement disorder in 2013, destroying her ability to do two things sacred to her: drawing letters and lines.

Those losses inspired Zhang, a Microsoft researcher, to spend months studying Parkinson’s disease while building and testing prototypes that could, she hoped, temporarily short-circuit the hand tremors, allowing Lawton to write her own name again.

Today at Build, Microsoft showed off a flurry of technologies that are evolving as engineers, designers, developers and users offer more of their humanity to software and services. Last year Microsoft spoke about bots, machine learning, and artificial intelligence and it seems this year, the company is extolling the virtues of their practical applications that are leading to more stories such as Emma’s.