Sensors used to monitor obesity


Hi-tech sensors aim to help prevent obesity

Overweight man and woman
Obesity causes 2.8 million deaths around the world each year

A range of hi-tech sensors that can measure food intake and activity in order to assess obesity risks is to be funded by the European Union.

Dubbed Splendid, the project aims to persuade youngsters to adopt healthier lifestyles and be more aware of their eating and exercise habits.

It is part of a push to use technology to create preventative healthcare.

Obesity causes an estimated 2.8 million deaths among adults around the world every year.

“The idea is that we try to investigate ways to prevent obesity and eating disorders,” said Prof Anastasios Delopoulos, the project co-ordinator who works for the department of electrical and computer engineering at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece.

The system will be tested on around 200 secondary school students in Sweden and another set of children in the Netherlands.

A mandometer
One of the sensors will monitor how quickly people eat

Sensors will be used to measure the speed at which food is eaten as well as how food is chewed.

The time taken to consume food is one of the risk factors in obesity, according to Prof Delopoulos.

It will be measured using a mandometer, from Swedish firm AB Mando, which is currently used in a handful of clinics set up to treat eating disorders.

The sensor comprises a scale connected to a portable computer or a smartphone. A plate of food is put on the scale and the rate at which it leaves the plate is recorded, with an audible warning if it is being eaten too quickly for the person to realise they are full.

Swiss firm CSEM is developing the other two sensors that will be used in the project. ActiSmile is a wearable sensor, which rewards the wearer with a smiley face when enough exercise has been done.

The firm is also designing an acoustic sensor, which will take the form of a wearable microphone, and record how the user chews food.

Users will also input their own data, including how full they feel after a meal as well as daily intake and activity logs.

All the data will be processed and run through algorithms which will assess the risks for obesity and eating disorders.

In the later stages of the trial, the system will be used to help change the way at-risk youngsters eat and exercise.

“The goal is to modify eating and activity behaviour of individuals in a personalised way,” said Prof Delopoulos.

“A medical expert will assign goals, such as to eat more slowly or adopt more activity and the sensors will monitor whether the individual succeeds,” he added.

Daniel Kraft is a doctor and executive director of FutureMed, a healthcare education programme aimed at teaching medical professionals about new technologies.

He thinks that sensors will increasingly be integrated into healthcare.

“From connected scales to sensors that can track heart rate and activity levels… the patient can be empowered to understand their healthcare data,” he said.

“It brings you to an era of healthcare rather than sick care,” he added.

Microsoft designs stress-busting bra.


Microsoft working on a smart bra to measure mood

A sketch from the research paper
Two sensors were embedded in the bra

Microsoft researchers have designed a smart bra that can detect stress.

The prototype contains removable sensors that monitor heart and skin activity to provide an indication of mood levels.

The aim was to find out if wearable technology could help prevent stress-related over-eating.

Mood data was provided to the wearer via a smartphone app in order to highlight when “emotional eating” was likely to occur.

A team from Microsoft’s visualisation and interaction research group embedded an electrocardiogram and electro-dermal activities sensors as well as a gyroscope and accelerometer in the bra.

In their paper, the researchers say using a bra “was ideal because it allowed us to collect EKG [electrocardiogram] near the heart”.

Efforts to create a similar piece of underwear for men worked less well, largely because the sensors were located too far away from the heart.

The women testing the technology reported their emotions for about six hours a day over a period of four days.

“It was very tedious for participants to wear our prototyped sensing system, as the boards had to be recharged every three to four hours,” Microsoft senior research designer Asta Roseway said.

Electric shock

Wearable technology is increasingly being used to monitor a range of health conditions.

Last month saw the release of a Twitter-connected bra, that tweeted every time it was unhooked to encourage women to self-examine their breasts.

And last year a patent was awarded to a US firm that was working on a wearable device that analysed breast heat in order to detect cancer.

Meanwhile in response to a series of rapes in India, three engineering students developed a bra loaded with sensors and an electronic circuit that is activated when someone attempts to grope a woman wearing it.

Gimball: A crash-happy flying robot.


Gimball bumps into and ricochets off of obstacles, rather than avoiding them. This 34 centimeter in diameter spherical flying robot buzzes around the most unpredictable, chaotic environments, without the need for fragile detection sensors. This resiliency to injury, inspired by insects, is what sets it apart from other flying robots. Gimball is protected by a spherical, elastic cage which enables it to absorb and rebound from shocks. It keeps its balance using a gyroscopic stabilization system. When tested in the forests above Lausanne, Switzerland, it performed brilliantly, careening from tree trunk to tree trunk but staying on course. It will be presented in public at the IREX conference in Tokyo, Japan from November 5-9, 2013.

Powered by twin propellers and steered by fins, Gimball can stay on course despite its numerous collisions. This feat was a formidable challenge for EPFL PhD student Adrien Briod. “The idea was for the robot’s body to stay balanced after a collision, so that it can keep to its trajectory,” he explains. “Its predecessors, which weren’t stabilized, tended to take off in random directions after impact.” With colleague Przemyslaw Mariusz Kornatowski, Briod developed the gyroscopic  consisting of a double carbon-fiber ring that keeps the robot oriented vertically, while the cage absorbs as it rotates.

Going sensor-free: insect-inspired design

Most robots navigate using a complex network of sensors, which allow them to avoid obstacles by reconstructing the environment around them. It’s an inconvenient method, says Briod. “The sensors are heavy and fragile. And they can’t operate in certain conditions, for example if the environment is full of smoke.”

Gimball’s robustness lies in its technological simplicity, says Briod. “Flying insects handle collisions quite well. For them, shocks aren’t really accidents, because they’re designed to bounce back from them. This is the direction we decided to take in our research.”

The flying  is prepared to deal with the most difficult terrain out there. “Our objective was exactly that – to be able to operate where other robots can’t go, such as a building that has collapsed in an earthquake. The on-board camera can provide valuable information to emergency personnel.” The scientist had an opportunity to test his prototype in a Swiss pine forest. Fitted out with just a compass and an altitude sensor, Gimball demonstrated its ability to maintain its course over several hundred meters despite colliding with several tree trunks along the way.

Gimball is the latest in a long line of colliding robots developed in the laboratory of EPFL professor Dario Floreano. But its stabilization system, spherical shape and ultralight weight – barely 370 grams – demonstrate the potential of the concept better than ever before. “The mechanics must also be intelligent, since complex obstacle avoidance systems are not sufficient,” says Briod. Even so, he insists, “we’re not yet ready to compete with our model. Insects are still superior.”

Design and evaluation of a laboratory prototype system for 3D photoacoustic full breast tomography.


Photoacoustic imaging can visualize vascularization-driven optical absorption contrast with great potential for breast cancer detection and diagnosis. State-of-the-art photoacoustic breast imaging systems are promising but are limited either by only a 2D imaging capability or by an insufficient imaging field-of-view (FOV). We present a laboratory prototype system designed for 3D photoacoustic full breast tomography, and comprehensively characterize it and evaluate its performance in imaging phantoms. The heart of the system is an ultrasound detector array specifically developed for breast imaging and optimized for high sensitivity. Each detector element has an acoustic lens to enlarge the acceptance angle of the large surface area detector elements to ensure a wide system FOV. We characterized the ultrasound detector array performance in terms of frequency response, directional sensitivity, minimum detectable pressure and inter-element electrical and mechanical cross-talk. Further we evaluated the system performance of the laboratory prototype imager using well-defined breast mimicking phantoms. The system possesses a 2 mm XY plane resolution and a 6 mm vertical resolution. A vasculature mimicking object was successfully visualized down to a depth of 40 mm in the breast phantom. Further, tumor mimicking spherical objects with 5 and 10 mm diameter at 20 mm and 40 mm depths are recovered, indicating high system sensitivity. The system has a 170 × 170 × 170 mm3 FOV, which is well suited for full breast imaging. Various recommendations are provided for performance improvement and to guide this laboratory prototype to a clinical version in future.

Source: http://www.opticsinfobase.org