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This ‘Electronic Tattoo’ Can Read Emotions and Muscle Activity

Jul 12, 2016 03:08 AM EDT
Scientists developed an “electronic tattoo” that will help measure muscle activity and nerve cells in the most comfortable way. (Photo : JohnerCross / Pixabay)

An "electronic tattoo" promises a gentler, more comfortable approach to measuring physiological conditions.

Researchers from Tel Aviv University (TAU) have developed a temporary nanotech tattoo that can measure the activity of the muscle and nerve cells, and, interestingly, map emotions.

According to the researchers, the device is "poised to revolutionize medicine, rehabilitation and even business and marketing research."

"Researchers worldwide are trying to develop methods for mapping emotions by analyzing facial expressions, mostly via photos and smart software," Yael Hanein, head of the TAU Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, said in a press release.

"But our skin electrode provides a more direct and convenient solution," Hanein added.

According to scientists, the tattoo consists of a carbon electrode, an adhesive surface that attaches to the skin, and a nanotechnology-based conductive polymer coating that protects the device. The electronic tattoo is capable of recording strong and steady signals without irritating the person's skin.

The device, which is a joint project between the European Research Council (ERC) and the BSMT Consortium of Israel's Ministry of Economy, offers an alternative to electromyography - a medical procedure that is done to assess the health of muscles and nerve cells.

But the process is generally unpleasant, which requires patients to lie sedentary in the laboratory for hours with either a needle stuck into the muscle tissue or a cold, sticky gel applied on the skin.

Apart from being more comfortable to the skin, the nanotech tattoo also allows patients to move around and go about their daily activities unhindered.

"The idea is: stick it on and forget about it," Hanein said.

Apart from collecting physiological data, the electronic tattoo has another important role: mapping emotions.

"The ability to identify and map people's emotions has many potential uses," Hanein said.

"Advertisers, pollsters, media professionals, and others -- all want to test people's reactions to various products and situations. Today, with no accurate scientific tools available, they rely mostly on inevitably subjective questionnaires."

According to Hanein, the skin electrode will also be used to monitor the muscle activity of patients with neurodegenerative diseases.

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