New research aims to create ‘wearable stethoscope’ for heart and speech monitoring
Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) and Northwestern University in Illinois, alongside the Eulji University College of Medicine in Korea, have developed a wearable acoustic sensor that can monitor heart health and recognise spoken words.
The sensor is a stretchable device that captures physiological sound signals from the body. It is well matched with human skin and can be mounted on nearly any surface of the body, says Jae-Woong Jeong, CU Boulder assistant professor and one of the three lead study authors.
The device weights less than one hundredth of an ounce and can collect continuous physiological data.
“This device has a very low mass density and can be used for cardiovascular monitoring, speech recognition and human-machine interfaces in daily life,” said Jeong. “It is very comfortable and convenient – you can think of it as a tiny, wearable stethoscope.”
The device can pick up mechanical waves that propagate through tissues and fluids in the human body due to natural physiological activity, revealing characteristic acoustical signatures of individual events, such as the opening and closing of heart valves, vibrations of the vocal cords, and movements in gastrointestinal tracts. Electrodes can also be integrated into the devices to record electrocardiogram (ECG) signals that measure the electrical activity of the heart, as well as electromyogram (EMG) signals that measure the electrical activity of muscles at rest and during contraction.
“The thin, soft, skin-like characteristics of these advanced wearable devices provide unique capabilities for ‘listening in’ to the intrinsic sounds of vital organs of the body, including the lungs and heart, with important consequences in continuous monitoring of physiological health,” said John Rogers of Northwestern University.
The device also has speech recognition capabilities which can be used to control robots, vehicles, or drones, as well as having scope to improve communication for people suffering from speech impairments.
You can find out more about the device here.