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Is the Future of Wearable Health Tech… Tattoos?

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  • Techonomy16 conference in Half Moon Bay, California, Wednesday, November 9, 2016. (Photo by Paul Sakuma Photography) www.paulsakuma.com

  • Techonomy16 conference in Half Moon Bay, California, Wednesday, November 9, 2016. (Photo by Paul Sakuma Photography) www.paulsakuma.com

Speaker

Carlos Olguin
Head of Bio/Nano/Programmable Matter Group, Autodesk Research


Powered by chemistry and biology, soon temporary tattoos will be not just a conduit of self-expression but one of health awareness. What happens when low-cost biosensors embedded in tattoos can detect blood alcohol or sugar? Or biomarkers related to diseases like Malaria or Zika? How will that impact not just the health and wellness of individuals, but that of the healthcare ecosystem?

Olguin: I’m Carlos, cofounder of LogicInk and I want to share with you that I’m very excited about the digital transformation that healthcare is undergoing, including the explosion in the number of devices that are giving us vast amounts of information. At the same time, the feeling of still living in the dark ages, in many ways at least, is even more present. And I’ll list a number of things.

Noninvasive critical sensors, for example, a cystic fibrosis sensor, a lung cancer sensor that relies on sweat analysis, does not exist commercially. It only exists in a laboratory setting. What is commercially available tends to be expensive, bulky, has a high learning curve, strictly requires your smart phone to be operated. This makes for a multi-sensing wearable experience, today at least, that is impractical or unaffordable for many people. Yet many people still want to learn more about what’s going on in their bodies or in the environment to live a healthier and longer life.

So what I want to talk to you about today is about a new kind of wearable. This one is powered by chemistry and by biology. Think of the form factor as a temporary tattoo or a sticker that kids wear today that changes its color or shape to alert you of a condition of interest in your body or in the environment. You need to block from your mind right now any perception that you have of wearables and their displays and think of the display as being almost like printed on your skin like your skin was being programmed. And think that initially it would be changes in color but eventually it would be changes in texture, changes in smell, changes in movement, for example.

So what can we do with this technology? What will it let us do more easily? So scenarios like continuous mass screening of disease or epidemics are practically possible. Research in, for example, biomarkers associated with malaria point to the possibility of a future where a malaria-sensing stamp can be used for days, can be replenished, renewed at home, without the need of point of access care. And if you think about this, if you think of the implications of this, it means that it can be logistically possible to apply this technology to an entire population. That means that vectors can be identified as soon as they’re manifested. That means that this approach has a shot at complete or near complete disease eradication.

Stepping back in general, the potentially applications that one can derive from analyzing your sweat, your skin microbiome, volatiles that emanate from your skin, the surrounding environment, are frankly limitless. And in a way, we’re just in the beginning of this movement.

Now I should clarify, it’s not that electronics is not needed, of course they can become an important factor in the overall experience and enrich it, we just think that there’s a complimentary future that doesn’t require electronics as a strict necessity to be able to use wearables and by doing so we expand the user demographic of who can benefit from it.

Lastly, I’ll say that I mentioned the word tattoos a couple of times, this is no coincidence. You may be surprised to know but three in ten US adults have a tattoo, at least one. Sixty-seven percent of them have two or more according to a Harris poll from February. Nearly half of millennials have tattoos. So when you think about all this and as we combine all these different trends, we at LogicInk, envision a future where people wear these kinds of wearables every day in a social or in a private context, further giving guidance to our lifestyle choices and the impact that they may have on our health and taking one step further from where we are today in wearables and blurring the line between what is health awareness and self-expression. Thank you.

[END]

 

Transcription by RA Fisher Ink

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