Problem getting heard at a disco?

Illustration of the assembled acoustic sensor device and its interface with soft electrophysiology measurement electrodes and flexible cable for power supply and data acquisition. Credit: Yuhao Liu et al./Science Advances

Have you ever been into a very noisy environment where even shouting wouldn’t help?

If you are young probably a disco would come to your mind. If you are old may be a party at New Year’s Eve…

It surely happened to me a number of times.  Now I have discovered that there is a solution!

At the University of Colorado, Boulder, researchers have invented a tiny electronic device that can stick to your skin and monitor your body, including picking up what you say. 

When we talk our skin vibrates and by decoding these vibration it is possible to track what you are saying and “voice” it to your partner nearby or at the far end of the Earth (provide she has connectivity).

Now, the device was not designed to help you next time at the disco (this is something I made up although, indeed, it can be used for that), but as a general sensing device that can monitor your body.

The sensors embedded in the device can pick up electrical signals from your heart and from your other muscles, doubling up as a sophisticated heart monitor, since it picks up both sounds (something wrong with the valves?) and electrical signals. It works both as a stethoscope and as an electrocardiograph. They called it “epidermal electronics”.

The possibility to pick up voice in a noisy environment has been considered but not for disco, rather in battlefields… (I prefer my application). It may also help people with speech impairment.

The device prototype has a cable used to provide power and to send signals but in principle the sending can be accomplished wirelessly whilst the power part can be supported by an accumulator that recharges by scavenging energy from the body (temperature, vibration).

It would require quite a bit of engineering but it is in the domain of “technically feasible”.

I cannot say if we are going to see this specific device on our body but I can bet we are going to have some sensors in our wearable or on our skin in the coming decade, and they will be “so normal” that we won’t even notice.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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