Topics: Biotechnology, Magnetism, Materials Science, Medicine, Nanotechnology, Robotics
Cultural reference: The Six Million Dollar Man, NBC
In recent years, health and fitness wearables have gained popularity as platforms to wirelessly track daily physical activities, by counting steps, for example, or recording heartbeats directly from the wrist. To achieve this, inertial sensors in contact with the skin capture the relevant motion and physiological signals originating from the body.
As wearable technology evolves, researchers strive to understand not just how to track the body’s dynamic signals, but also how to simulate them to control artificial limbs. This new level of motion control requires a detailed understanding of what is happening beneath the skin, specifically, the motion of the muscles.
Skeletal muscles are responsible for almost all movement of the human body. When muscle fibers contract, the exerted forces travel through the tendons, pull the bones, and ultimately produce motion. To track and use these muscle contractions in real-time and with high signal quality, engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) employed low-frequency magnetic fields – which pass undisturbed through body tissues – to provide accurate and real-time transcutaneous sensing of muscle motion. They describe their technique in Science Robotics.
Magnetic beads inside the body could improve control of bionic limbs, Raudel Avila is a student contributor to Physics World