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Stanford Medicine

Applied Biotechnology, Cardiovascular Medicine, Technology

Researchers develop a reliable electrical sensor no more invasive than a temporary tattoo

The latest in genuinely cool gadgetry with serious medical potential: thin, pliable circuitry that can be applied directly to the skin. Researchers designed the electronic skin graft, which they’re calling “epidermal electronics,” to match skin’s mechanical properties: it’s thin, elastic, and tear resistant.

The device, which can be rubbed onto skin with water like a temporary tattoo, must still be subject to further research: the product’s breathability and sweat resistance have yet to be fully tested. However, the actual and potential medical uses are already enough to make any health blogger/gadget enthusiast clap her hands with excitement. Science Now explains:

In one experiment, the group applied a device the size of a postage stamp to a person’s chest to pick up the electrical signals produced by the heart. The measurements agreed “remarkably well” with those produced by a hospital electrocardiogram, the researchers say, without relying on potentially uncomfortable gels or tape. In another experiment, the group applied a device containing a microphone to a person’s throat and fed the signal to a computer. The computer could recognize four different words: “up,” “down,” “left,” and “right.” This technology could eventually help people with some disabilities control computers, the researchers say.

Researchers also expect the device to pave the way for future non-invasive sensors that would monitor brain activity or allow users to control computers remotely via subtle voice commands and movements.


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