Technology with attitude

Wireless Biosensor Detects Heart Signals, Adds New Prospects to Gaming

The housing of the Electric Potential Integrated Circuit (EPIC) electrocardiogram tracking device shows that it is actually an array of 16 sensors that together ensure accuracy and reliability. Photo: Plessey Semiconductors
The Electric Potential Integrated Circuit (EPIC) electrocardiogram tracking device is actually an array of 16 sensors that together ensure accuracy and reliability, even through walls. Photo: Plessey Semiconductors

Medical researchers are in hot pursuit of methods for unobtrusively monitoring the body, and the video game industry is on the same trail as well: Nintendo’s Wiimote and Microsoft’s Kinect follow body movements, and EEG headsets being developed by NeuroSky and Emotiv (just to mention only the most famous ones) use physiological signals to control games and various other applications.

In October 2011, Plessey Semiconductors (England) announced the availability of its award winning Electric Potential Integrated Circuit (EPIC) sensors which measures minute changes in electric fields. The EPIC is optimised for use as an ECG sensor and provide a resolution as good as or better than conventional electrodes. It detects changes in electric field, in contact, at a distance, through clothing and even through walls.

This ease of detection even through clothes or at a distance means that new ways of taking ECG measurements are being investigated by customers.  For example, the  EPIC sensors could be built into stretchers for immediate monitoring of patients heart rate and respiratory action or built into clothing to monitor stress levels in emergency response personnel such as firemen.  As the sensors are very compact and the detection circuitry requires very low power, the EPIC sensor opens up the opportunity for ECG monitoring over a long period of time so that abnormalities can be picked up during normal activities without the stress of being in a hospital or doctor’s room.

What is Electrocardiography?

ECG or EKG from the German Elektrokardiogramm is a transthoracic (across the thorax or chest) interpretation of the electrical activity of the heart over a period of time, as detected by electrodes attached to the outer surface of the skin and recorded by a device external to the body. The recording produced by this noninvasive procedure is termed an electrocardiogram (also ECG or EKG). Source: Wikipedia

ECG with scope

“The first EPIC products are designed for ECG applications for health and patient monitoring as well as fitness and wellness applications,” said Derek Rye, Plessey’s Marketing Manager. “The next release products available later in this quarter will be optimised for movement sensing where applications range from security, to automotive, to safety through to gesture recognition applications.  The gesture recognition capability has been picked up for controller-less gaming and the remote control of electronic consumer products like televisions, monitors and computers.  We are working on end applications where the potential volumes are in millions per month.  This is all very exciting for  the company.”

According to Plessey, the EPIC sensors are dry contact so that no gels or similar fluids are required to make contact. The sensors can be simply cleaned between uses, unlike conventional ECG sensors that have to be disposed of after every use. In addition, only a pair of sensors are required to take readings; current ECG systems need seven or more leads to be carefully applied to specific locations on the body whilst the patient lies down.

The sensors can be used through clothes or at a distance, opening to door to new ways of taking ECG measurements. As the sensors are very compact and the detection circuitry requires very low power, the EPIC sensor opens up the opportunity for ECG monitoring over a long period of time so that abnormalities can be picked up during normal activities without the stress of being in a hospital or doctor’s room.

Apparently this amazing new technology will not only serve as a high-tech medical accessory, aiding the disabled or helping emergency responders, but also to use body sensing for gaming,  or even switching on the TV or the lights.

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