Electronics that keep working even when repeatedly stretched and flexed have improved significantly in the last few years to the point that now they’re finally being introduced into real wearable medical devices.
At Northwestern University, John Rogers, the scientist responsible for many achievements in the field of flexible electronics (see flashbacks below), has developed new sensors that stick directly to the skin on the throat and measure vibrations produced by the vocal chords. They are also able to help assess how patients swallow and aid in identifying unusual speech characteristics that may not be readily apparent.
The new sensors work with previously developed on-body sensors that Rogers and his team has created. These track the heart’s rhythm, muscle movement, and help with sleep analysis.
All these sensors have been brought together at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab (formerly Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC)), to be able to track the progress of patients following a stroke, particularly those suffering from aphasia, a speech disorder. Currently, standing microphones and special software is used to assess speech, but a traditional microphone doesn’t capture a lot of the nuance that a flexible stick-on one can. The new throat sensors combined with chest and leg-worn censors create a detailed picture of the relevant health parameters of stroke patients.
Here’s a video from the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab about the latest study:
Flashbacks: Flexible Electronic Heart Wrap for Continuous 3D Electrocardiac Monitoring…; Flexible Skin-Worn Patch Monitors EEG, ECG, Sends Recorded Data via Wireless…; Battery-Free Skin Sensors Run on Wireless Energy of Smartphone…; Flexible Thermometer Laminated Onto Skin for Continuous, Area-Wide Temperature Monitoring…; New Light Sensor Mimicks Eye for Superior Camera Performance…; Dissolvable Brain Implant For Monitoring of ICP…