The potential of sensors on your joints that relay real-time information

A sensor is shown on a thumb. (Shanshan Yao/N.C. State) 
A sensor is shown on a thumb. (Shanshan Yao/N.C. State)

Here are five ideas that could impact how we live, work and play.

1. Stretchable sensors.

N.C. State researchers are developing sensors that can be worn on your body to transmit medical information. The sensors are made up of nanowires in rubber that is capable of bending and flexing with the natural movements of human joints and skin. Strain, pressure and touch are all tracked by the sensors.

If implemented in the real world, disease symptoms could be identified, and data gathered about a body over time could be analyzed to make medical diagnoses.

For athletes and fitness fanatics, real-time monitoring of joints could analyze and improve their performance and potentially warn of injury risk. Or for someone recovering from an injury, data tracking the recovery process could be obtained.

“People will use such wearable sensors to monitor body conditions such as heart rate, the amount of calories consumed in daily life,  blood pressure, glucose level, electrocardiogram, sleep condition, etc.,” said Shanshan Yao, one of the researchers.

There are hurdles to overcome, however. The sensors that Yao and Yong Zhu have made aren’t currently wireless. And privacy concerns would have to be addressed before sensors become used widely on human bodies. The work is part of the Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies center, which is funded by the National Science Foundation.

2. The perks of narcissism. Via Jena McGregor:

Narcissism often gets a bad rap. … But research has also shown its positive side. Narcissistic CEOs are more likely to adopt disruptive technology, leading to greater innovation. Having narcissists on your team can equal more creativity.

3. The marketing potential of a self-driving car. From the Atlantic:

On a future road trip, your robot car decides to take a new route, driving you past a Krispy Kreme Doughnut shop. A pop-up window opens on your car’s display and asks if you’d like to stop at the store. “Don’t mind if I do,” you think to yourself. You press “yes” on the touchscreen, and the autonomous car pulls up to the shop.

Wait, how did the car know that you might want an original glazed doughnut? Because it has data on your driving habits, and you’re a serial offender when it comes to impulsive snacking. Your car is also linked to your online accounts at home, and you had recently “liked” Krispy Kreme’s Facebook page and visited its website.

 4. Bike lanes, stimulant for the economy? From Fast Company:

Studies show that stores benefit from being near bike lanes. For example, retail sales on 9th Avenue in Manhattan rose 49 percent compared to a borough-wide rate of only 3 percent after a bike lane was put in. Studies show similar benefits for Oregon, Toronto, and Melbourne.

5. Internet so fast, you can download a movie in a second.  From the Guardian:

South Korea’s already impressive internet speeds are about to pull even farther ahead of the rest of the world with plans to introduce a next-generation 5G wireless service capable of downloading full-length films in a second. The 5G network will enable users to download an 800-megabyte movie in one second, compared with 40 seconds on the current 4G network – already the fastest in the world.

Matt McFarland is the editor of Innovations. He's always looking for the next big thing. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.
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Matt McFarland · January 23