Todd Coleman, director of the Neural Interaction Lab at the University of California, San Diego, has designed “epidermal electronics” as thin, flexible and easy to wear as a temporary tattoo.
“They pick up any electrical signal from the body,” Coleman says, and can monitor the heart, brain (through electroencephalography, or EEG), muscle contractions, even the heartbeat of the fetus inside an expectant mother.
“It’s a wearable technology that you literally do not feel, that other people cannot see on you, and that can monitor very precise information about you.”
In 2012, Coleman and his collaborator John Rogers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign were awarded a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Challenge grant to use these “electronic tattoos” for remote pregnancy monitoring, checking up on everything from maternal body temperature and heart rate to contractions, then sending the information wirelessly to a smartphone. As far as application of this technology goes, “the sky’s the limit,” he says.