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Startup Story

Swipe, scroll, kick: For lost limbs, 6Degrees ‘learns’ body movements in 5 minutes

The 6Degrees team

Making digital strokes out of physical intent, an Israeli startup recovers users’ fine motor skills

Touchscreens move our world. But what if touching a screen feels impossible? For the 300 million people living with fine motor skills disabilities, Tel Aviv assistive technology startup 6Degrees has found a Bluetooth-ready way for users to swipe and scroll through digital life—no fingers necessary.

“Our wearable bracelet technology, MyMove, turns any body limb into a precision cursor. In just five minutes, our device can learn your body’s signature movements, allowing you to move a cursor, play Xbox or other video games, and swipe and scroll across your phone or screen,” says Miri Berger, co-founder of Tel Aviv startup 6Degrees. “Instead of clicking the mouse, MyMove allows you to twist your arm, make a fistbump, make a whipping motion, kick your leg, lift your shoulder, swing your feet, or push your elbow out.”

Modeled on the tiniest details of everyday actions—using a car media console, presenting a slide deck, swiping on a phone, controlling a joystick—6Degrees develops algorithms and devices, MyMove, that recover users’ fine motor skills output. The startups’ latest prototype, MyMove+ accelerates virtual reality therapy for overcoming the pain caused by phantom limb syndrome.

While clients seeking to recover finger motion are the primary users of the product, MyMove works just as well attached to a leg, for users without upper limb mobility. With leg use, the device captures the output of kicks, foot twists, or any other leg movements the user assigns. And with no dongles or other extra hardware, Berger notes, “You don’t have to exercise fine motor skills to connect to the MyMove device.” While the device itself is built from off-the-shelf components, 6Degrees’ real innovation lies with the company’s algorithm that learns and responds to the user’s signature motions. “MyMove studies a patient’s movements similar to how a voice-activated device ‘learns’ a person’s voice.We built a library of 720 aspects of the way you move, or don’t move, that takes 80 samples in a second. It’s very, very fast,” adds Berger.

For Berger and her 6Degrees co-founder, husband Aryeh Katz, a limb disability has shaped their life as a couple. In the early 2000s, both founders served in the Israeli Defence Force, where Katz suffered a disabling nerve injury to his leg. “Going to physical therapy together during that time, we found ourselves in these hospital waiting rooms with people in their late teens and early 20s, who were going through rehab for injuries that had taken the use of their hands or legs,” says Berger. “Past the physical pain, it’s the loss of physical independence that stays with you. As founders, it has stayed with us emotionally, physically, and conceptually. It drives our design and mission.”

The married founders have a deep background in fostering and building inclusive design. Berger holds a background in industrial design, while Katz, who also serves as 6Degrees’ CTO, was Head of the Innovation Lab at NYU and holds a background in electrical engineering and software development. In the 2010s, the couple returned to Israel to launch 6Degrees. “Israel is really collaborative. Other startups here will tell investors about you and help you meet them,” says Berger. “I am on a WhatsApp group for assistive technology startups here with 257 people. We are all in the same vertical, and we give each other quick replies and help each other out with pitches and talent.”

Earlier this summer, Berger was one of 14 Israeli startup founders to attend Google for Startups Growth Academy: Female Founders, where she refined research and marketing strategies to expand the startup’s customer base and scale the company. Assistive technology is rarely sold retail, and making waves in the industry means getting very good at making deals with assistive technology libraries and mobility technology distributors across the globe. While focused on the U.S. and Israel market, since attending the Founders Academy, 6Degrees has inked deals with Australian distributors for its first-wave MyMove device. The startup is building out a strategy for MyMove+, the company’s second-generation device, a virtual reality device that reduces phantom limb pain and assists in physical rehabilitation for those who have lost a limb.

At the Sheba Medical Center, widely considered Israel’s top hospital, 6Degrees is currently testing the pilot device on amputee patients suffering from phantom limb syndrome. “It pairs with VR goggles. You strap the MyMove+ device above the missing limb, while playing games that simulate complete use of the missing limb,” says Berger. “By using visual, auditory and sensory feedback, we can release the buildup of nerve signals that can cause phantom limb pain.”

“We want to help as many people as possible, and we continue to refine aspects of the algorithms for both our products. I always call our users the company employees you never meet in the office. They’re really important. Their feedback is critical to getting a good product out there,” says Berger. “Ultimately, it’s about regaining Independence and e confidence that you can address this limb pain and experience life by recovering the output of these fine motor skills.”

Learn more about 6Degrees