Zibrio: Saving the World from Falling Down

By Mark Ogilbee posted 10-06-2022 09:49 PM

Dr. Katey Forth of Zibrio

AgeTech Collaborative™ participant Zibrio is on a mission to save the world from falling down. Originally invented for NASA astronauts, Zibrio’s precision technology measures a person’s weight and balance, and —most importantly— predicts a person’s likelihood of suffering a fall within the next 12 months. 

In honor of National Falls Prevention Awareness Week, we spoke with Zibrio CEO Katey Forth to learn more about the company and its out-of-this-world technology. 


Can you introduce us to yourself and the technology behind Zibrio? 

I'm Dr. Katey Forth; I’m the CEO and co-founder of Zibrio. We like to say we’re on a mission to save the world from falling down. The core piece of our solution is a scale: You stand on it, it measures your weight and balance, and it predicts if you’re going to fall down in the next 12 months. I was a scientist at NASA, where we invented the technology for astronauts on the moon and Mars. 


Do astronauts fall down in space a lot? 

Yes! And we have the videos to prove it. Their bodies are in an altered-gravity environment. And what is falling? It’s a gravity problem: It's how well you can control yourself relative to gravity. And while I was at NASA, I realized this solution could also help a lot of people here on Earth. 


How is the scale able to predict a fall? 

It measures the forces underneath your feet, so we can see all the different movements that the body is making. Then we use artificial intelligence to understand when your body is in control, and when it is having moments of micro-failure of control in terms of your balance. So even though you might not feel those things, we can measure them; that’s what makes it so predictive, which is reflected in a score the scale assigns you. 

There are more than 20 factors for falling, and they aren’t always obvious or “visible.” Neuromuscular control is a big one, but other things like cognitive function, medications you’re taking, and the amount of tension in your body are important factors. 


So if you get a score that can give you a prediction for 12 months out, how often do people use the scale? 

It’s similar to taking your blood pressure — meaning, that if you take your blood pressure and it’s in a healthy range, you might check again in a few months to make sure it’s still in a good place. But if you see that your score is going up, or if it’s in a range that is concerning, you might want to tighten the feedback loop by taking actions to help get that score to a better place. In the case of our scale and risk of a fall, that action might mean getting more sleep, or asking your doctor about what effects your medications might be having on your balance. 


Clearly, it’s good for people to not fall down. But how did you identify this area as a particular area of concern that you wanted to help solve? 

I’ve been researching this topic for a good 25 years. Back when I was an athlete, I got concussed, and I felt the effects of it. A doctor examined me and told me to stand on one leg. I was able to stand on one leg, so he said, “You’re fine” — but I knew I wasn’t fine. So I recognized there was a gray area when it comes to these capabilities. 

Later, my grandmother suffered a fall, and ultimately it led to her demise. She had been very athletic, and it was just awful to watch somebody who had been so capable go through that. My co-founder, Erez Lieberman Aiden, had the same thing happen to his grandmother. We were literally having lunch at NASA one day, just chatting, and we realized that this technology that was invented for astronauts could really have a positive impact for people on Earth and their families. We said, “We really should do this,” and we did. 


What was it like going from NASA scientist to entrepreneur and startup founder? 

It was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be! But we have had mentors along the way. This is where AARP has been so brilliant: The Innovation Labs provided resources for us and helped guide us through this process. Our device empowers people, and AARP helped us think through questions such as, “How can we maximize this empowering effect? How can we communicate this to investors and consumers?” Working with such a forward-thinking organization has really helped us accelerate and run with our business. 


Is there anything else you'd like to share? 

We want to empower older adults so they can measure themselves, for themselves — and then be able to communicate concerns to their doctor with confidence that they’ll be taken seriously, because they have actual data to share.  

Another benefit along the continuum of care is people being able to assess the effectiveness of their physical therapy; with our scale and its score, they’ll know whether the exercises they’re being prescribed are actually improving their balance. 


You can check out Zibrio’s website to learn much more about the company, its mission and its products.