This Cheap Circuit Tattoo Could Track Your Brain Waves
You'll be raring to ditch your clunky Fitbit after seeing the latest in flexible electronics: a stick-on circuit that clings to your skin like a temporary tattoo, tracks your health and transmits the data to your computer. And here's the kicker—it could cost less than a dollar.
University of Illinois professor John Rogers and Northwestern University professor Yonggang Huang have created a patch whose circuitry folds "like origami" to mesh with skin, allowing you to wear it without limiting your movement. The data gathered by the circuit can be beamed to your computer or phone wirelessly, in real time. It's far simpler than getting an EEG or EKG—the device has shown comparable results during testing—and it beats being hooked up to a bunch of wires, especially when it comes to long-term sleep monitoring or stress testing.
“Our original epidermal devices exploited specialized device geometries – super thin, structured in certain ways. But chip-scale devices, batteries, capacitors and other components must be re-formulated for these platforms. There’s a lot of value in complementing this specialized strategy with our new concepts in microfluidics and origami interconnects to enable compatibility with commercial off-the-shelf parts for accelerated development, reduced costs and expanded options in device types.”
In other words, researchers could tack on run-of-the-mill, third-party components to the circuit and drive down the cost. Co.Design writes that you could fit your essential phone guts—a battery, accelerometer, Wi-Fi chip, and Bluetooth—under the device's microfluidic hood. At the moment, the patch can't last for more than a day, so Rogers and Huang have programmed it to act as a 24/7 tracker, specifically for health care applications.
A device that's hanging off your wrist can only be so accurate, so a patch that jibes with your skin might just be a solution for people who haven't had luck with standard fitness trackers or want more detailed metrics. But don't expect to pick up a shiny electronic tattoo anytime soon: Rogers says it could be another two years until the technology is commercialized. You'll just have to make do with itchy wristbands for now.