Japanese electronics manufacturer Kyocera is set to open up a new market for fitness trackers with a new, tiny optical sensor that measure blood flow in hypodermal tissues.
This new sensor uses Laser Doppler velocimetry (LDV) to measure blood flow beneath the skin. LDV works by using a "Doppler shift" in a laser beam to measure the velocity of fluids. This information can then be analyzed and a range of detail about body health logged. Kyocera's sensor is capable of monitoring nerve and blood pressure, levels of dehydration, and possible signs of heat stroke.
According to Nikkei Technology, the breakthrough Kyocera made is in how small the sensor is. It measures 3.2-by-1.6-by-0.9mm while remaining highly sensitive and reliable. Such a small size allowed them to mount the sensor inside earphones, suggesting that future fitness trackers could be worn inside the ear rather than on the wrist as is common today.
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Kyocera had the experimental earphones complete with optical sensor on display at Medtec Japan 2017 held last month. Because the sensor fits inside the ear the company sees many potential uses beyond what a fitness band can offer. For example, monitoring sleep can be done more accurately, but also combining monitoring with music to gauge mental tension is also going to be explored. Maybe the same can be done with the general sounds an individual hears as they go about their day.
For now, this is a prototype device, but there's every chance one day we'll be offered earphones with a fitness tracker built in that also gives feedback on mental tension based on your music preferences.
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