This temporary tattoo offers more than meets the eye
New technology maps emotions and monitors muscle activity.
When you think of temporary tattoos, you probably think of small children or a fear of needles and commitment, not medical research.
But a team of researchers from Tel Aviv University (TAU) in Israel is set to upend your associations with a new temporary "electronic tattoo" that could revolutionize medicine, rehabilitation and even business and marketing research.
The tattoo consists of a carbon electrode, an adhesive surface that attaches to the skin and a nanotechnology-based conductive polymer coating that enhances the electrode's performance. It records a strong, steady signal for hours on end without irritating the skin.
"Researchers worldwide are trying to develop methods for mapping emotions by analyzing facial expressions, mostly via photos and smart software," said Professor Yael Hanein, head of TAU's Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, "But our skin electrode provides a more direct and convenient solution."
One major application of the new electrode is the mapping of emotion by monitoring facial expressions through electric signals received from facial muscles.
"The ability to identify and map people's emotions has many potential uses," said Hanein. "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."
The device was first developed as an alternative to electromyography, a test that assesses the health of muscles and nerve cells. It's an uncomfortable and unpleasant medical procedure that requires patients to lie sedentary in the lab for hours on end. Often a needle is stuck into muscle tissue to record its electrical activity, or patients are swabbed with a cold, sticky gel and attached to unwieldy surface electrodes.
"Our tattoo permits patients to carry on with their daily routines, while the electrode monitors their muscle and nerve activity," said Hanein. "The idea is: stick it on and forget about it."
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