Category Archives: Wearables

High school student creates a smart wearable for Parkinson’s patients


OneRing monitors motor distortions and generates patient reports.


After school activities for the average high school student typically entails sports practices, music lessons and homework; but creating a smart medical device for a disease that affects 10 million people seems unlikely. That’s not the case for Cupertino High School sophomore Utkarsh Tandon. Tandon is the founder of OneRing, an intelligent tool for monitoring Parkinson’s disease.

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OneRing is a wearable that captures movement data from a patient, algorithmically identifies Parkinson’s tremor patterns and classifies the severity. Tandon first became interested in studying the disease when he watched a video of Muhammad Ali, who has Parkinson’s, light the Olympic torch in 1996. After volunteering at a local Parkinson’s institute, the 15-year-old decided to build a company that focuses on improving the lives of those affected by this movement disorder. He began working on signal processing and machine learning algorithms, before evolving the concept and founded OneRing.

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OneRing quantifies Parkinson’s disease movements and its mobile app leverages the data collected to generate smart patient reports that physicians can use to better prescribe medication. At the core of the device is its machine learning technology. The OneRing has been trained to model various Parkinson’s motor patterns such as dyskinesia, bradykinesia and tremors. A Bluetooth module encased inside the 3D-printed plastic ring allows it to communicate with its accompanying iOS app to provide time-stamped analytics about the patient’s movement severity during the day.

The ring itself currently comes in three sizes, each varying in diameter: 18mm, 19mm and 20 mm. Tandon and his team hope to develop a “one-size-fits-all” piece in the near future.

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With this Kickstarter campaign, Tandon hopes to deploy OneRing to a local Parkinson’s institute where the device can be used in exams and sent home with patients. Ultimately he wants to bring OneRing to patients all around the world in hopes of suppressing the condition’s rapid progression. Interested in the cause? Head over to the OneRing project page, where Tandon and his team have already doubled their pledged goal of $1,500.

Humans can now be bioluminescent with this LED implant


The Northstar V1 is the latest device biohackers are implanting under their skin.


There are wearables… and then there are embeddables. The latter is technology you can’t necessarily take off because it’s implanted in your body under the skin. This seems extreme for most people, but not for a group biohackers who recently implanted a coin-sized LED device in their hands.

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The Northstar V1 is the latest subdermal technology implant created by Grindhouse Wetware, a Pittsburgh-based collective comprised of biohackers and grinders. For those unfamiliar with the term, grinders are people who are part human, part machine and they share the mission of “augmenting humanity using safe, affordable, open source technology.”

The Northstar is a module with five red LEDs that light up for 10 seconds when activated by a magnet, illuminating the user’s skin. While a light up implantable doesn’t sound too appealing and worth cutting up your hand for, co-founder Tim Cannon says the Northstar is designed to show that things can be inserted safely and be usable under the skin.

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The Northstar is coated with Parylene, which is employed in biotech to prevent the body’s rejection of the device. At the heart of it is an ATmega28P. A limitation to the unit, however, is its power. The implant runs on a CR2325 lithium coin cell and is not rechargeable. However, the Grindhouse team believes this simple gadget will pave the way for a more advance and functional Northstar V2 that will be rechargeable, have gesture recognition, Bluetooth capabilities and even deliver biometric data.

At the moment, V1 is purely for aesthetic purposes and has gained interest from the body modification community as a way to backlight body art. If you’re interested in becoming a cyborg, visit Cannon and the Grindhouse Wetware’s website.

[Images: Ryan O’Shea/Grindhouse Wetware]

Wearable sweat sensors provide real-time analysis of the body


UC Berkeley engineers have developed new wearable sensors that can measure skin temperature, as well as glucose, lactate, sodium and potassium in sweat.


As it turns out, future wearable devices may not be as interested in your activities, as they are the sweat produced during them. That’s because engineers at UC Berkeley have developed a flexible sensor system capable of measuring metabolites and electrolytes in sweat and sending the results to a smartphone in real-time.

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According to researchers, these bendable plastic patches can be easily implemented into bands for the wrist and head, and provide early warnings to health problems such as fatigue and dangerously high temperatures.

“Human sweat contains physiologically rich information, thus making it an attractive body fluid for non-invasive wearable sensors,” explained Ali Javey, a UC Berkeley professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences.

The prototype consists of five sensors and a flexible circuit with (what would appear to be an Atmel) MCU and a Bluetooth transceiver. This board measures the concentration of various chemicals in sweat and skin temperature, calibrates the information and then sends it over to its accompanying mobile app.

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To test their proof-of-concept, the engineers put the device and more than two dozen volunteers through various indoor and outdoor exercises, such as riding stationary bikes and running trails. In doing so, the team kept tabs on sodium, potassium, glucose and lactate. Monitoring electrolytes like sodium and potassium may help track conditions,  and can ultimately be utilized to assess a user’s state of health.

“When studying the effects of exercise on human physiology, we typically take blood samples. With this non-invasive technology, someday it may be possible to know what’s going on physiologically without needle sticks or attaching little, disposable cups on you,” added physiologist George Brooks, a UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology.

Intrigued? Learn all about the wearable sweat sensor here, or watch the team’s video below!

‘Sup Brow? Send a message to your friend by making a muscle


Text a friend by lifting your eyebrow using a MyoWare muscle sensor and an Adafruit Bluefruit Feather board. 


In today’s world, there are all kinds of ways to message one another. There’s texting, emailing, Skyping, Snapchatting, and countless other forms of communication. But what if you could send a message to your friend by simply raising your eyebrow?

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This was something Adafruit’s Becky Stern and Kate Hartman wanted to make a reality in their recent wearables project, ’Sup Brows. To bring this idea to life, the duo employed a MyoWare muscle sensor along with a Feather Bluefruit 32U4 LE (ATmega32U4) microcontroller to transmit a signal through the phone to Adafruit IO and then IFTTT to trigger an SMS.

“It’s really neat to use non-verbal communication like facial expressions as an interface for electronics,” Hartman explains.

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As cool of a project as this may be, ‘Sup Brows is simply the beginning. Since it’s connected to IFTTT, the possibilities of what you can accomplish by creating a recipe and just raising your eyebrows are endless. Similarly, Stern and Hartman note that it can also be hooked up to a variety of other muscles to have activities prompted by other facial expressions, gestures and actions.

So whether it’s booking an appointment with your cosmetic surgeon when your Botox wears off or getting yourself out of a date with a butt dial, everything is fair game. Intrigued? Head over to Adafruit’s tutorial page to get started.

 

3D print a Daft Punk helmet with Bluetooth-controlled LEDs


Harder, better, faster, brighter! 


If there is one musical group that has inspired more electronics projects than any other, Daft Punk has to be it. Besides just producing awesome electronic tunes, the helmets that they wear are filled with blinking lights. Adafruit’s latest helmet build, which is the brainchild of the Ruiz brothers, features a replica of Thomas Bangalter’s helmet and uses two microcontrollers for lighting control.

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Possibly the most impressive thing about this wearable is the work it takes to 3D print something like this. One not experienced with this type of machine might expect to press a button and see a shiny new headpiece to simply pop out of the machine, after printing, the three sections had to be joined together, painted, and sanded in several steps. Additionally, the visor was made separately, and heated to bend it into place.

Of course, the helmet wouldn’t be much fun without an array of blinking LEDs. The visor lights are provided by a NeoPixel strip, cut into two layers and embedded in the helmet. Animations for this portion are enabled by an Adafruit Feather 32U4 Bluefruit LE (ATmega32U4), which offers the ability to communicate over Bluetooth. This, in turn, allows animations to be controlled via a smartphone or even a smartwatch using Adafruit’s “BLE Connect” app. Meanwhile, the NeoPixel rings on the ears are managed by a 5V Trinket board (ATtiny85), with both rings sharing data, power and ground; certainly an interesting technique that one might want to keep in mind for later use.

 

Is your smartwatch stealing your passwords?


A computer science student has demonstrated that software running on a smartwatch could be used to record a user’s passwords and PINs.


Unless you eschew modern technology altogether (such as reading websites), chances are that data on you is being collected. Smartphones are capable enough data sponges, but smartwatches have the potential to extend this reach even further. According to Tony Beltramelli’s master’s thesis for the IT University of Copenhagen, the sensors on the Sony SmartWatch 3 (and likely many other present and future watches) are so accurate that they can be used to sense what button you press on a 12-segment keypad with “above-average” precision.

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As seen in the video below, it appears that this ability comes from the user actually moving their hand from button to button. The wearable’s built-in accelerometer and gyroscope can sense these motions and then feed that information into a recurrent neural network. Using a deep learning algorithm, Beltramelli is able to sift through all the “noisy data” and detect patterns for various events, such as when the user moves and taps their finger on a touchscreen to unlock a PIN-protected phone or when the user enters a code on an ATM’s keypad.

Interestingly, as reported in section 6.3 of the thesis, the device did a better job of “touchlogging” — recording virtual keystrokes on a touchscreen — at 73% acuracy, versus “keylogging” — where a physical keyboard is used for input — at 59% accuracy. The touchscreen used was larger in this experiment than the keypad, apparently leading to this discrepancy.

“By their very nature of being wearable, these devices, however, provide a new pervasive attack surface threatening users privacy, among others,” Beltramelli explains. “The goal of this work is to raise awareness about the potential risks related to motion sensors built-in wearable devices and to demonstrate abuse opportunities leveraged by advanced neural network architectures.”

As you can imagine, there are still a few limitations that make this type of approach with a smartwatch impractical as an attack against specific targets. For starters, it only works if the person is using the arm that the gadget is on. So, if you have a watch and are concerned about spying, you can simply strap it onto your less dominant wrist. Or alternatively, you could make a habit of typing with three fingers on numeric keypads.

FITGuard is an impact-indicating mouthguard


This mouthguard can detect the severity of a hit and alert coaches when a player might have a concussion.


Whether you’re on the football or baseball side of the argument, sports in general is America’s favorite pastime. The sad truth, however, is that there are 3.8 million sports-related concussions per year. From quarterbacks to catchers, athletes across the spectrum face the risk of traumatic head injuries in every game. Some athletes continue playing injured without them or their coaches realizing how critical the impact is, which is why Force Impact Technologies is creating smart sporting equipment to detect injuries and preventing further damage to the brain.

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The Los Angeles-based company’s first product, FITGuard, is a smart mouthguard that detects the severity of an impact to the head. It visually indicates how intense the impact was, using embedded LEDs. Force Impact strives to improve the quality of athletes’ lives by integrating technology and sports.

When in use, FITGuard continuously samples rates of acceleration, and when the peak rate breaches a threshold, the LEDs will change colors. A green light indicates a low-impact blow, blue means there is a moderate risk of injury and red signifies severe impact, alerting coaches and referees to immediately remove the player from the field. FITGuard is Bluetooth-compatible and can communicate with any BLE-enabled smartphone. The accompanying mobile application provides parents, coaches, and leagues with insight into an athlete’s injury and previous impact history. FITGuard’s app considers the user’s weight, gender, and age to measure the impact of a blow, giving quantifiable data to make informed decisions.

Force Impact Technologies is taking the next step in curtailing chronic concussions that threaten the lives of athletes with FITGuard. Preorders of the device are available for $129 and first units are expected to ship by April 2016. To learn more about the product, visit the Force Impact Technologies website here.