Researchers at Imperial College London have created a wearable that works on both pets and people. Oh, and its really squishy.
The fitness tracker is able to detect vital signs, like hear and breathing rates, through fur or up to four layers of clothing.
It is designed to help owners to monitor their pets health in day-to-day life or vets to keep an eye on them during surgery. The tech could also be used to better understand the movements of sniffer dogs and to measure vital signs in humans without removing their clothing.
It’s essentially a wearable stethoscope. A microphone is housed in a silicone-water composite that moulds tightly to fur, clothing and body parts.
The microphone picks up sound and converts it to a digital signal which is then transmitted to a nearby portable computer, allowing the user to track their pet’s physiology in real-time.
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“The sensor works like a watery, squishy stethoscope, filling any gaps between it and its subject so no air bubbles are present to dampen the sound”, said the project’s first author Yasin Cotur.
Researchers hope the device could help people to monitor the sniffer dogs used to detect bombs and missing persons. Measuring the dogs’ heart and breathing rates could allow them to quantify their excitement and thus to know how certain the dog is that they’ve found their target.
The researchers are also looking at integrating motion sensors in the wearable to tracks animal movement in real-time. By implementing an AI algorithm, owners would potentially be able to tell when their best friend is sitting, standing or lying down and what direction they are facing.
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So far, the device has only been tested on five humans and one dog but Imperial plans to adapt them for use on horses and livestock.
“Wearables are expected to play a major role in monitoring health and detecting diseases early”, said Imperial College London Department of Bioengineering senior lecturer and project lead author Dr Firat Guder.
“Our stretchy, flexible invention heralds a whole new type of sensor that can track the health of animals and humans alike over fur or clothing”.