Tiny monitor tracks vital signs sans skin contact

The 2-inch-wide sensor, which tracks heart rate, respiration, and movement, is non-invasive and wearable.

Scientists and engineers have built a monitor that tracks heart rate, respiration, and movement--without requiring direct contact with skin.

The 2-inch-wide sensor works without skin contact. Oregon State University

The "life and activity" monitor, developed at Oregon State University, is wearable and non-invasive. The team worked with researchers at the University of California at San Diego to develop a noncontact sensor that is essentially an electric field sensor for tracking the heart rate through materials such as clothing.

The sensor also includes a 5-axis inertial measurement unit that allows for ongoing and simultaneous monitoring of movement, heart rate, and respiration. Imagine adhering such a device to your pants instead of wearing yet another arm or wrist band that's trying to resemble a watch.

The researchers, who reported on their emerging tech this week, say the next step is to continue to miniaturize a device that is already just two inches wide--ultimately taking the form of, say, a disposable bandage prescribed by a doctor for a few weeks of continuous monitoring.

"When this technology becomes more miniaturized and so low cost that it could almost be disposable, it will see more widespread adoption," said Patrick Chiang, an assistant professor of computer engineering at OSU, in the school release. "It's already been used in one clinical research study on the effects of micronutrients on aging, and monitoring of this type should have an important future role in medicine."

About the author

Elizabeth Armstrong Moore is based in Portland, Oregon, and has written for Wired, The Christian Science Monitor, and public radio. Her semi-obscure hobbies include climbing, billiards, board games that take up a lot of space, and piano.

 

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