What if wearable electronics could monitor your health and detect disease before symptoms appear?
That is exactly the vision of Sihong Wang and his research team at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) at the University of Chicago.
“With this work, we have bridged wearable technology with artificial intelligence and machine learning to create a powerful device that can analyze health data directly on our own bodies,” Wang say.
The assistant professor and his team envision a future where wearable biosensors can track health indicators, including sugar, oxygen and metabolites in people’s blood.
With this goal in mind, they have developed a chip that can collect data from multiple biosensors and draw conclusions about a person’s health using machine learning.
One of the biggest challenges, Wang said, was creating a device that integrates seamlessly with the skin.
So the team turned to polymers, which have the ability to stretch and bend. They then merged them into a device that enables the AI-based analysis of health data.
The chip — called a neuromorphic computer chip — doesn’t work like a typical computer. Instead, it functions more like a human brain, with the ability to store and analyze data in an integrated way.
The research team tested their tool by analyzing electrocardiogram (ECG) data, which records the electrical activity of the human heart.
They trained the device to categorize EKGs into five groups: one for healthy signals and four for types of abnormal signals. Then they tested it on new EKGs.
The chip was able to accurately classify the heartbeats, whether stretched or bent.
Wang emphasizes that this research is a starting point, and he’s already planning new iterations of the chip to expand the types of devices it integrates with, as well as the types of machine learning algorithms he uses.
Ultimately, it can be used to send alerts to patients or clinicians, or to automatically adjust medications.
While this sounds like a fascinating use of AI, it’s not the only obstacle to getting the technology there.
As beneficial as it would be to continuously monitor our health without stressful doctor visits, how and who handles such sensitive data through a chip is an ethical issue that needs to be addressed in advance.
You will find the full research paper here.