FUTURE: “Smart Skin” monitors Vital Signs

The following 2011 story of nano-scale technology caught my eye but may need an introduction. It’s about the ability to embed sensors and other electronic components into a flexible film that’s half the thickness of a human hair, can be applied like a temporary tattoo, and is worn with comfort.

Updated Video from November 2015

The “smart skin” can be packed with micro-circuits including sensors, receivers, transmitters, diodes, transistors, antennas, and miniature solar cells. That means there are many potential applications, including:
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Aging as an Extreme Sport: Inventing Life Tomorrow

Death Takes a Holiday: Surfing, by Mandrak

DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY: It seems people aren’t expiring fast enough to meet revenue projections. (Photo: Surfing by Mandrak)

Dr. Joseph Coughlin, founder and director of MIT’s AgeLab, spoke last month at TEDx Boston about impressive advancements in longevity. 100 years ago, the average lifespan was 47, but according to Reuters, “half of babies born in rich world will live to 100.” The challenge we’ve got now is reinventing the future to address the question of what will we be doing with those additional years. Will we be frail and in need of constant care, or will we be vibrant contributors to the workforce and society?

The question demands changes in technologies, our personal lives, our homes, public policy, and in business. That’s because baby boomers, which are turning age 65 one in every 7-8 seconds, have much higher expectations than their parents of technology, government, and employers.

Boomers would rather not feel or be labeled “old,” even though aging has become an extreme sport. Reaching up for things on store shelves and in kitchen cabinets has become more difficult, and so has reaching under cabinets. The prescription medicine bottles or cereal boxes have now become obstacles. And so has transportation for those who can no longer drive, because 70% of them live where there’s no public transportation or where there’s a very long walk to get there.

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MIT’s AGNES, the ageing suit

Paro Robot Seal, a Healing PetAs the world’s population gets older, how are we going to manage?
Innovative approaches are being developed at the MIT AgeLab

James Crabtree, comment editor at Financial Times Magazine, wrote an excellent article on the challenges of supporting America’s aging population, starting with his account of a visit to MIT’s Age Lab and his experience wearing AGNES, or Age Gain Now Empathy System. I highly recommend reading the article and only include minor highlights here.

The article includes several photos including one of Paro, an animatronic ‘therapeutic’ robot baby seal from Japan that was designed to comfort elderly patients suffering from dementia. As seen in the video below, Paro responds to touch and sound.

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Health Care Comes Home: The Human Factors

by the National Research Council (www.nationalacademies.org/bohsi)
National Academy of Sciences • National Academy of Engineering • Institute of Medicine • National Research Council

Health Care Comes HomeHealth Care Comes Home: The Human Factors

In the United States, health care practices and associated medical devices and information technologies are rapidly moving into the home. This transition, which is likely to accelerate in the future, has raised a host of issues. Care recipients and caregivers have particular capabilities and limitations that can shape home health care processes and procedures. Very few homes have been designed for the delivery of health care. Yet the aging of the population, changes in medical practices, and reductions in health care reimbursement are leading to greater reliance on care at home. Medical equipment and technologies that are designed for hospitals and clinics can be ill-suited for use in the home. The physical and social environment can support or detract from home health care. The rapid growth of home health care has and will have wide-ranging consequences.

The safety, quality, and effectiveness of home health care can be informed by many issues encompassed by the field of human factors research and practice—which studies human capabilities and limitations and their interaction with the design of products, processes, systems, and work environments. For that reason, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality asked the Board on Human-Systems Integration of the National Research Council to conduct a systematic investigation of the role of human factors in home health care. In response, the multidisciplinary Committee on the Role of Human Factors in Home Healthcare was formed to examine a diverse range of behavioral and human factors issues resulting from the increasing migration of medical devices, technologies, and care practices into the home. Its goal was to lay the groundwork for a thorough integration of human factors knowledge and research with the design and implementation of home health care devices, systems, technologies, and practices.

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