With the opioid crisis gripping the nation, Ohio is leading the charge finding a solution with a surprising tool – technology.

The Ohio Opioid Technology Challenge is seeking to help by using “a three-phase, prize-based competition to find technology-based solutions that address or improve opioid abuse prevention, treatment and overdose avoidance and response,” its website says.

Ohio Governor John Kasich requested that the Ohio Third Frontier seek technology and scientific solutions to fight the opioid epidemic. The challenge will use $8 million, with a possible $12 million more to help find answers to help solve the crisis.

“Ohio put out the call for new ideas and people from across the world responded,” said David Goodman, director of the Ohio Development Services Agency and chair of the Ohio Third Frontier Commission, in a press release. “This issue affects countless individuals, families and communities, so we’re thrilled by the level of response and excited to move these ideas forward and save lives.”

The ideation phase launched in October 2017 and closed in December 2017. Award winners were announced in January of 2018. The original call for ideas brought in quite a few concepts, with five winning $10,000.

“We were thrilled by the outpouring of ideas we received in the first phase of the Technology Challenge,” said Director David Goodman, chair of the Ohio Third Frontier Commission. “We’re eager to move forward with this next step in developing new solutions and saving lives.”

One of the winners is Cincinnati-based Kinematechs. Their idea will use augmented reality to help coach patients. Using motion-tracking, CTO Yong Pei and company will personalize physical rehab, which will improve therapy. The goal is to help a patient recovering from injury reduce their pain medicine needs.

Kelly Cashion, research Software engineer at the University of Dayton Research Institute, analyzes data from a brain scanning session. Photo Courtesy Ohio Third Frontier.

Kelly Cashion, research software engineer at the University of Dayton Research Institute, is focusing her research on helping patients understand neurological feedback via brain scans. The hope is that the scans will help patients realize when they have a craving, allowing them to potentially control it.

“We can show someone what is happening in a certain part of their brain and then use visualization tools and games to suppress or amplify that activity. This helps them control cravings and prevent a relapse,” Cashion said in a release.

The other three winners’ ideas are “an addiction assessment app that would identify patients who are at higher risk for opioid abuse, an augmented reality system that helps patients rehab from injury without pain medication, a mindfulness-based smoking cessation therapy adapted for opioid addiction and a virtual reality program to prevent addiction in teens and young adults,” according to the press release from Ohio Third Frontier.

The next phase started in February and will wrap up in July. It is the Challenge Phase, which will focus on four areas: diagnose, prevent, connect and protect. The deadline is July 11, and there will be 12 finalists announced. Each winner will receive $200,000 to advance their idea. These semi-finalists will move on to the final product phase, which will allow them to further build their product, preparing it to go to market.

“We’re hoping that these ideas become the solutions for tomorrow,” Goodman said. “Making advancements in technology is one more way to ensure we leave no stone unturned.”