publish date 2022-03-18 09:45:50
Forget the latest Apple Watch or Fitbit, as scientists are now working on a shirt that can “hear” your heartbeat and monitor its rhythm in real time.
It was created using an “acoustic tissue” that acts like a microphone, first converting sound into mechanical vibrations and then into electrical signals, similar to the way our ears hear.
And when it’s sewn into the lining of a shirt, the fabric can detect the wearer’s precise heartbeat features, according to engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).
He did not disclose any details about the potential cost because the idea is still in the development stage.
The fabric’s fibers are made from a “piezoelectric” material that produces an electrical signal when bent, providing a way for the shirt to convert sound vibrations into electrical signals.
Lead author Wei Yan, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said: “This tissue can interact imperceptibly with human skin, enabling the wearer to monitor the state of the heart and respiratory system in a convenient, continuous, real-time and long-term way.”
His team took inspiration from the human auditory system to create a fabric “ear” that is soft, durable, comfortable and able to detect sound.
The audible sound is transmitted through the air in the form of slight pressure waves. When these waves reach our ear, a complex, sensitive three-dimensional organ, the tympanic membrane, or eardrum, uses a circular layer of fibers to translate the pressure waves into mechanical vibrations.
These vibrations are transmitted through small bones to the inner ear, where the cochlea converts the waves into electrical signals that the brain senses and processes.
All fabrics vibrate in response to audible sounds, but these vibrations are on a nanometer scale – far too small to normally be sensed.
To capture these imperceptible signals, the researchers created elastic fibers that, when woven into fabric, bend with the fabric like seaweed on the ocean’s surface.
The fibers can also be made to generate sound, such as recording spoken words, that other tissue can detect.
“Wearing a voice dress, you can talk through it to answer phone calls and communicate with others,” added Yan, who is now an assistant professor at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
The researchers’ design includes specialized electrical fibers woven into textile threads that can convert pressure waves at audible frequencies into mechanical vibrations.
The fibers can then convert these mechanical vibrations into electrical signals, similar to the process that occurs in the cochlea.
The dress can detect the direction from which the sound of applause is coming from; Facilitate two-way communication between two people, each wearing the vocal tissue; Monitor the heart when the cloth comes into contact with the skin.
The researchers envision a directional sound-sensing fabric that could help those with hearing impairments tune into their loudspeaker in noisy surroundings.
The team also sewed a single fiber into the inner lining of the shirt, just above the chest area, and found that it accurately detected the heartbeat of a healthy volunteer.
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