Have you seen the latest version of the “Apple Watch”? Or maybe something in the lines of that device? A device that you can wear and use as a phone overall. However, I think that those smartwatches are more interesting than just being a tiny version of a mobile phone. Besides, it always being by your side when you need it or saving you from the fuss of carrying your mobile in your hand all the time, the location of these devices —thanks to them being wearable— opens a new can of worms. The watch is only an example of wearable technologies, which we do not have to carry around. Instead, we wear them. The location of these devices is on your body, and they're attached to you in some way and are wearable just like an article of clothing.
Therefore, back to the first question: what about the latest version? Besides calculating the calories we burn or measuring our heartbeat, the latest version has an optical heart sensor that can even measure your blood oxygen (Apple Support). It feels breathtaking that just a device you wear on your wrist has the ability to gather such information. This reminds us of the practicality of wearable technologies again. Any electronic device designed to be worn as jewelry, clothing, or such is called ‘wearable technology’ (Yasar), as its name suggests.
Recently, a new report on bio-imaging has been published in Science. With bioimaging, without being invasive - meaning without cutting or inserting something in our bodies - we can capture or visualize what biological process is happening at the time (CAB). When imaging is mentioned, most of us probably think about x-ray machines that we might have visited for a broken bone, dental x-ray images to check out our teeth at the dentist, or maybe an abdominal ultrasound, and more.
The report is about a wearable ultrasound device. The device consists of an ultrasound probe that creates sound waves and receives their echoes (Andell Moore, et al). This part sticks onto the skin by a couplant bioadhesive that is able to communicate ultrasonic energy. The couplant is made up of a hydrogel-elastomer hybrid. While hydrogel is a polymer that is able to withstand water and protect its shape (American Chemical Society), elastomer is a rubbery material that is able to revert to its initial form after being stretched (Encyclopædia Britannica). As it can also be seen from the image, this enables the device to adhere to the skin as if it is a band-aid!
The current ultrasound machines used in hospitals are gigantic devices, and they limit the patient to be present in a fixed location, which can be frustrating. Yet, the new “ultrasound sticker” can image “diverse internal organs, including blood vessels, muscle, heart, gastrointestinal tract, diaphragm, and lung,” (Wang C, et al) for up to 48 hours. Besides letting patients move to their hearts’ content, the sticker also continues to image the changes whilst they sit, stand, or exercise. Although the stickers need to be connected to other instruments that translate echoes into images, it is still an incredible development. With this sticker, there is no need for a technician to hold the probe in place or the requirement for an ultrasound gel to be reapplied continually (Jennifer Chu).
All in all, wearable technologies have been getting more and more attention. As the days pass, technology advances more and more, as news such as this demonstrates to us. The job of larger devices is now in the capabilities of just a stamp-sized sticker!
(1) “How to Use the Blood Oxygen App on Apple Watch Series 6 or Series 7.” Apple Support, 19 Oct. 2021, https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT211027#:~:text=In Apple Watch Series 6,amount of light reflected back.
(2) Yasar, Kinza, and Ivy Wigmore. “What Is Wearable Technology? Definition, Uses and Examples.” SearchMobileComputing, TechTarget, 12 May 2022, https://www.techtarget.com/searchmobilecomputing/definition/wearable-technology#:~:text=Wearable technology is any kind,clothing or elements of clothing.
(3) Cab. “What Is Bioimaging?” Center for Advanced Bioimaging, https://cab.ku.dk/what_is_bioimaging/.
(4) Andell Moore, et al. “Ultrasound Transducer Types - How to Select the Right Probe?” LBN Medical, 28 Apr. 2022, https://lbnmedical.com/ultrasound-transducer-types/#:~:text=An ultrasound transducer%2C also called,create an image called sonogram.
(5)American Chemical Society. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.chemrev.0c00345.
(6) “Elastomer.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., https://www.britannica.com/science/elastomer.
(7) Wang C, Chen X, Wang L, Makihata M, Liu HC, Zhou T, Zhao X. “Bioadhesive ultrasound for long-term continuous imaging of diverse organs”. Science. 2022 Jul 29;377(6605):517-523. doi: 10.1126/science.abo2542. Epub 2022 Jul 28. PMID: 35901155.
(8) Jennifer Chu | MIT News Office. “MIT Engineers Develop Stickers That Can See inside the Body.” MIT News | Massachusetts Institute of Technology, https://news.mit.edu/2022/ultrasound-stickers-0728.
Image Source: “Ultrasound Sticker.” YouTube, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), 28 July 2022, https://youtu.be/Kn2J8W4csNc. Accessed 14 Aug. 2022.