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Brainstorm Health: Microsoft Controllers for the Disabled, CBO and Medicare for All, Allergan Shareholder Vote

May 1, 2019, 9:17 PM UTC
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Hello and happy hump day, readers!

The tech giant produced a widely-praised commercial during the Big Game earlier this year to advertise its Xbox Adaptive Controller, a special piece of hardware meant to help people with disabilities and limited mobility play video games on Microsoft’s popular console. Now, Microsoft is bringing those adaptive controllers to nearly two dozen rehabilitation centers to help disabled veterans get back into the game, The Verge reports.

The project, in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), makes sense for the military. Nearly 60% of Americans play video games regularly, according to the Entertainment Software Association, and the armed forces skew heavily male and young (both demographics that are far more likely to game).

Microsoft’s adaptive controllers are essentially programmable devices that have a whole lot of input jacks (nearly 20, in fact) which can interface with various external components used by people with disabilities. The hope is that veterans with mobility problems can use the tech to game on the Xbox or PCs, including for rehabilitation and therapy. For instance, certain games can help people sharpen their hand-eye coordination skills or muscle movement.

Video games certainly aren’t a new form of treatment—gaming, especially via virtual reality systems, have already been deployed in everything from soothing young patients undergoing painful procedures to trying to sharpen at-risk dementia patients’ minds. What makes Microsoft’s adaptive controllers so intriguing are their, well, adaptability—the way they can be used by people regardless of whether they’ve lost an arm, a leg, or have some other kind of handicap.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


The drone-delivered kidney transplant was a success. A few days back, we mentioned the University of Maryland School of Medicine's pioneering effort to have a kidney transported to a hospital via drone delivery. Good news—the aforementioned kidney was successfully transplanted! The patient who received it had been waiting the better part of a decade for a donor; unlike many others in the donor's situation, the patient didn't have to grapple with an extended delivery delay thanks to the use of drones. (Engadget)


Allergan chief hangs on to chairmanship. Allergan CEO Brent Saunders has succeeded in his bid to remain both chief executive and board chairman of the Botox maker. Shareholders controlling about 61% of company stock swatted down a non-binding measure that would have split the chairman and CEO roles as Allergan continues to struggle from both a market value and drug pipeline perspective. Still, nearly 40% of shareholders backed the coup attempt engineered by David Tepper and his activist fund Appaloosa LP, highlighting tensions among the company's investors. (Reuters)


The CBO's Medicare for All punt. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on Wednesday released a framework for evaluating the design of Medicare for All proposals. The thing is, that's about all it is—a rough framework. The independent score keeping agency did telegraph some important metrics (for instance, it would treat any federally administered universal system, even if it contracts with private outfits, as a federal government expenditure, which would likely balloon such plans' financial scores); but it remained mum on how it would judge various effects that a Medicare for All program may have on broader health care economics and behavior. (CBO)

Some states have just stopped paying retiree health benefits. The Wall Street Journal reports that some states are taking a, uhh, creative approach to addressing their pension and health benefits shortfalls: Just stop paying out certain health benefits altogether. That's led to a bit of a vicious cycle for certain state employers, who are hard-pressed to sell jobs with dwindling safety net protections over the long term. (Wall Street Journal)


The EU Wants to Build One of the World's Largest Biometric Databases. What Could Possibly Go Wrong? by Grace Dobush

Aluminum Scam Results in Two NASA Mission Failuresby Chris Morris

Trump Could Throw Tech Under the Bus to Get a Trade Deal With Chinaby Clay Chandler

Investors Braced for an Earnings Recession. It Doesn't Look Like It's Happeningby Rey Mashayekhi

Produced by Sy Mukherjee
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