Thursday, March 1, 2012

Electric Tattoos

EDIT: I just saw that Liz posted on the same topic. Clearly creative students of creativity think alike! Regardless, our dual posts just prove how creative this product really is.

One of the most fascinating creative innovations I have come across this academic year is the development of a new technology that blurs the line between electronics and biology. A team of engineers and scientists have created a unique device that adheres to the skin like a temporary tattoo and yet is able to record the same data as a conventional EEG, ECG or EMG. Researchers have essentially created a new class of micro-electronics. They call this technology an epidermal electronic system (EES) which features electrophysiological and physical sensors, and wireless power and communication modules.

Part of the patches' brilliance is due to the fact that they are easily scalable and can be easily manufactured. Additionally, although the electronics can be seen, they cannot be felt. The patch is actually thinner than a strand of human hair! As you can see from the picture above, these electric patches contain little squiggles which are actually the circuits. Using these circuits, the devices can draw power from stray (or transmitted) electromagnetic radiation through the process of induction and can harvest a portion of their energy requirements from miniature solar collectors. They have a potential lifespan of 24 hours. The shape of the circuits allows them to twist and turn while still remaining functional. As you will see in the following video, they actually stretch and bend with the skin.

There are several important scientists working on this project, but I would like to focus my attention on one specific person: Dr. John A. Rogers. Rogers is a physical chemist and materials engineer. He currently works at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has won numerous awards, the most recent being named a Department of Defense National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellow (2009) and a MacArthur Fellow (2009). He has published over 200 papers and has co-invented over 70 patents. He definitely embodies what it means to be a Creative.

In Rogers’ case, development factors were extremely important in shaping this Creative. He was raised by a physicist and an accomplished poet; Rogers himself attributes his success to his understanding and appreciation for both science and the arts. His combined interests allow him to approach innovation with a different perspective than many of his peers. He learned early on that ideas are most successful when they balance creative innovation and practicality.

His aforementioned accomplishments put him in a position of recognition and motivate him extrinsically. His field and fields in which he is doing related work celebrate Rogers and create an environment that allows his Creativity to continue to foster. His collaboration with other individuals from various fields allows him to gain novel perspectives on his work.

Rogers has been described as moving effortlessly between science and technology. I believe his ability to do so is based on his intrinsic motivation. He believes that his work should benefit society. Like Freud, Rogers believes in people first. As a result, he attempts to humanize he work. Thus much of Rogers' work falls into the realm of human health.

The field has particularly welcomed this creative invention. In particular, fellow scientists have said this is a great step in wearable technology. One of the scientists on the team responds to that saying what is power about this technology is that it "can connect you to the physical world and the cyberworld in a very natural way that feels very comfortable." Nonetheless, I have my concerns about this very potential. For example, will human beings start using this technology all the time? What are the social and political effects of such a development (especially if the lifespan of the patches increases)?

These electric patches are creative because they are new products which hold great potential for solving problems. They have the ability to read data from the heart, the muscles and the brain. In my opinion, this ability is capable of benefiting the elderly and those in emergency situations in an extremely substantial way. My best friend's grandmother passed away a month ago and her failing health had her in the hospital for weeks prior to her death. After visiting with her grandmother, my friend kept mentioning how draining it was for an elderly sick person to keep having her vitals read daily and even throughout the day. These patches would give doctors quick and painless access to the information they need. The same logic proves the patches' importance in emergency and emergency room situations. One final group that would exponentially benefit from these patches is children. When doctors need a child's vitals, the process can seem quite scary. However, if we were to replace big machines and needles with temporary tattoos in the shape of your favorite cartoon character and still get the same information we need, children's experiences would not be so traumatizing, providing relief for children, nurses, doctors, and (of course) parents.

1 comment:

  1. I actually read this article because of the title. I was under the mistaken impression that it would concern a new tattoo gun or something along those lines. The article covers a fascinating innovation, which basically uses a sticker to monitor a number of vitals. It has incredible ramifications for those hospitalized and looking for less intrusive method of examinations. It could eventually lead to violations of privacy and lead to electronically monitor far more than just vitals. Although the post demonstrates that the creator, Dr. Rogers, has expertise in several fields and has been influenced by his parents careers it fails to mention the precise influence for this invention.


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