Engineers create small threads to know how and when you move in real time

Scanning electron microscopy of carbon ink coated wires. Straight thread on the left. Bending the coated wires creates stress (right), which changes the electrical conductivity, the amount that can be used to calculate the level of deformation (scale bar 200 microns). Credit: Yiwen Jiang, Tufts University

Engineers created wire sensors to measure the movement of the skin in real time to measure movement, with potential implications for tracking health and performance.

Tufts University engineers have created and tested flexible wired sensors that can measure neck movement, providing data on direction, angle of rotation, and level of head displacement. The findings, according to the Tufts team, increase the chances of measuring athletic performance, controlling employee or driver fatigue, assisting with physiotherapy, improving virtual reality games and systems, and having thin, prominent tattoo-like patches that can enhance computer-generated images. in cinematography. Technology described in (January 29, 2021) year Scientific Reports, Are added to a larger number of wire sensors developed by Tufts engineers to look for tissues, measure environmental gases and chemicals, or metabolites in sweat.

In their experiments, the researchers placed two wires in an “X” pattern on the back of the subject’s neck. Covered with an electrically conductive carbon-based ink, the sensors detect motion as the wires bend, creating a voltage that changes the way electricity is conducted. When the subject made a series of head movements, the cables sent signals to a small Bluetooth module and then transmitted the data wirelessly to a computer or smartphone for analysis.

Data analysis has had sophisticated studies for automatic learning to interpret signals and translate them in real time to quantify head movements, with 93%. accuracy. In this way, the sensors and processors follow the movement without the interference of cables, large devices or the use of cameras or conditions limited to the room or laboratory space.

According to the researchers, algorithms for each position of the body should be specialized, evidence of the principle shows that wire sensors can be used to measure the movement of other limbs. Threaded leather patches or shape-fitting clothing could be used to track movements in settings that are most important in settings, such as on the field, in the workplace, or in the classroom. The fact that you don’t need a camera offers additional privacy.

“He is hopeful of showing us how we can make sensors that intrusively control our health, performance, and environment,” said Yiwen Jiang Tufts, a graduate student at the University of Engineering School and the first author of the study. “More work needs to be done to improve the range and accuracy of the sensors, in which case this could mean collecting data from a larger set of threads regularly separated or arranged in a pattern and developing algorithms that improve quantification of articulated motion.”

Other types of affordable motion sensor designs include 3-axis gyroscopes, accelerometers, and magnetometers to detect the subject’s movement toward the environment. These sensors are based on inertial measurements – quantifying how the body speeds up, rotates, or moves up and down, and tend to be larger and more uncomfortable. For example, with other systems, to measure the movement of the head, it is necessary to have one sensor on the forehead and another on the neck above the vertebrae. Shrinking the equipment can interfere with the free movement of the subjects or simply the lack of awareness of the measured.

For situations like the sports field, a new paradigm of thread-based sensors can be a game changer. By placing thin tattoo-like patches on different joints, an athlete can wear motion sensors to detect his or her physical movement and shape, wire sweat sensors, work previously described by the Tufts team, his electrolytes, lactate, and other biological marks for sweating.

On the road, a patch of wire sensor can warn of other situations that are critical to the truck driver’s fatigue or the operator’s friendliness, controlling the movements of the head that someone is about to head towards.

“If we take this technology further, there could be many applications in healthcare as well,” Jiang said. “For example, those who study Parkinson’s disease and other neuromuscular diseases may follow the movements of the subjects in their normal settings and daily life to gather data on their condition and the effectiveness of treatments.”

“The goal of creating wire-based sensors is to‘ disappear ’what they carry,” said Sameer Sonkusale, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Tufts School of Engineering, director of Tufts Nanolab. and the author of the corresponding study. “Creating a coated wire capable of measuring motion is a significant achievement, even more so because Yiwen has developed this invention in undergraduate studies. We hope to refine the technology and explore many possibilities.”

Reference: January 29, 2021, Scientific Reports.
DOI: 10.1038 / s41598-021-81284-7

Funding: National Science Foundation, U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center

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