Japenese researchers have created a stretchy, ultrathin electric "skin" that can read and display the wearer's heartbeat. Using built-in electrode sensors and wireless communication, the breathable nanomesh sensor fits flush against the wearer's skin and records information (like the waveforms of an echocardiogram, for example). It then sends the information its gathered directly to a smartphone, external storage device, or even syncs with the cloud.

The tech, which was brought to life through an academic-industrial collaboration led by Professor Takao Someya at the University of Tokyo's Graduate School of Engineering, will be displayed and discussed today, February 17th, at the AAAS Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas.

As semiconductor technology has improved, so too have applications for wearables that can track vital signs and other health information on the wearer, syncing it up with their smart devices in real time.

The display created by the team of researchers in Japan is a 16 x 24 array of micro LEDs combined with elastic wiring attached to a rubber sheet. Designed for flexibility, it can stretch to 45 percent of its original length. "Our skin display exhibits simple graphics with motion," Professor Someya said in a press release."Because it is made from thin and soft materials, it can be deformed freely."


Image credit: 2018 Takao Someya Research Group.

Wearables are getting more powerful (and often sleeker in design) with each new iteration that hits the market: from wearable MRI devices (which some propose could allow us to read minds) to our first real glimpse into human sleep patterns, to bendable batteries that could drastically improve implants, wearables propelling medicine into the future.

In terms of what it can monitor, the skin display isn't wildly more advanced than existing technologies, but its seamless nature and interconnectivity make it extremely easy to use. Patients who need constant monitoring of vital signs could use the tech to make sure the information is sent directly from the device to their doctor, but in a way that's noninvasive, convenient, and reliable.

For patients with limited mobility, being able to have accurate, real-time, remote monitoring that keeps them connected to those overseeing their care, all without the stress of scheduling and getting to an appointment, wearables can be life-changing. Or, at the very least, a lot more comfortable.

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