BOULDER, Colo. -- Researchers with the University of Colorado Boulder and Northwestern University have developed a new kind of wearable device that could help people with a variety of health conditions or speech impairments.
The tiny, flexible device can be attached anywhere on the body. It measures acoustic signals from the body by sensing vibrations in the skin.
"When there’s physiological activity in the body, that generates waves that propagate through the tissue and fluid of body. And when the wave reaches the surface of the skin that makes a skin vibration," says study co-author and CU Boulder assistant professor Jaewoong Jeong,
With the heart, for example, when the muscle expands and contracts, that sends a wave through your body. This device could tell observers if there’s a structural defect in the heart. It could also pick up signals from the lungs or gastrointestinal system.
The device can also pick up vibrations of the vocal cords. By analyzing the signal, researchers say this can interpret speech, which could have implications for people with speech disorders.
"About one percent of adult population suffers from a speech disorder. Just by touching our device on the throat we can provide improved communication capability for people with speech impairment," says Jeong.
Jeong says there are other wearable devices that measure ECG signals, but none with the acoustic sensor capabilities of this device.
A paper on the subject was published in the journal Science Advances.