Wearab’les is one of the biggest tech markets right now, mostly with fitness trackers and smartwatches. There is a growing force for them to follow the vital signs. If you find portable devices too expensive, maybe they shouldn’t be. Some researchers recently discovered that it was possible to use pencil and paper to act as a laptop and track these same vital signs.
Discovery with pencil and paper
Especially with an ongoing global health crisis, many people want to track their vital signs: heart rate, blood oxygen levels, respiratory rate, etc.
Researchers at the University of Missouri worked on a study that was published in “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”. This showed pencil and paper can follow the same biological data that a laptop can. Granted, he also needs a little help from a computer and some cables.
The Missouri study detailed how a standard pencil and white paper can monitor biological data such as heart rate, respiratory rate, glucose levels, body temperature, and sweat composition. The pencil was not used to record these measurements. Instead, graphite, which is used in pencils as well as batteries and solar panels, was used to pick up electrical and chemical impulses under the skin.
The electrodes were created by drawing sketches on the paper using the same designs that typical metal electrodes use. And the adhesive was sprayed onto the paper and then flipped over to make the graphic contact the skin. Cables then connected the electrodes and a computer to record the pulses.
Several types of pencils have been tried by researchers. In the end, they found that pencils containing 93% graphite, while being common and cheap, were also the most effective in their study. The standard type of pencil commonly used in schools contains more clay and wax.
Another advantage of this biomedical data measurement system is that there is less waste, which makes it better for the environment. Paper breaks down quickly, certainly more so than portable devices.
“It’s a really smart concept,” said John Rogers, a Northwestern University professor and wearable technology researcher. He believes this study will lay the groundwork for developing systems that can be used on patients.
Researchers are already finding other ways to apply the technology. “If we can convert ambient humidity into electricity, it will reduce the amount of electricity needed to run the sensors,” said graduate student Yadong Xu, lead author of the study. “Even though these are the very early stages of development, maybe we could combine this technology into one system.”
The researchers also designed a rough model of the antenna, as they hope it could eventually be used to wirelessly transmit biomedical data records to a mobile device or computer so that health workers and patients can see live data.
Rogers believes wearable technology will be an integral tool for physicians in the future. Xu continues to see how it will become easier for people to monitor their own vital signs at home.
“You don’t have to go to the hospital to monitor your body’s systems,” he supposed. “Home-centered human health care is a very emerging field. area of research at the moment.
Not everyone will be seated, connected to their computer with electrodes on their arms drawn with pencil and paper – but it certainly shows that the process can be much simpler than what a laptop provides.
Read on to find out how Google and Verily can detect heart disease using an AI algorithm and your eyes.
Image Credit: Integrated video screenshot
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