Sophisticated sensors do exist – the kind that can tell you that you’re getting a sunburn, that your heartrate is a bit too high, or even that you have the symptoms associated with COVID-19.

But are you willing to put them on your body? To walk around the house with a sensor glued on your arm? Would you place a sensor in your mouth?

In this episode of our Here's an Idea podcast series, we speak to researchers who are building a variety of wearables. And some sensors blend in more than others.

We talk to engineers who are making full-body health trackers; UV monitors for those hot days at the beach; and a 3D-printed sensor that stays on tight.

Subscribe or listen via your preferred podcast provider here.

Episode Highlights:

  • (1:19) Hananeh Esmailbeigi from the University of Illinois has developed an assistive mouth sensor – a retainer that enables wireless interaction and control of a cursor, with the flick of the tongue.
  • (5:19) Yasser Khan from Stanford University built a set of skinlike sensors – a “BodyNet” – that can give us a better idea of our health.
  • (11:51) Abraham Finny from Clarkson University made a low-cost patch that changes color when you’ve been overexposed to UV radiation.
  • (15:42) Larry Cheng from Penn State has a way to 3D-print a sensor directly on the skin.

See What's Going On in the University of Illinois Wearables Lab

A display of HideIt Wearables
With the HideIt Wearables shown here, you place electronics inside of what looks like a tiny retainer – the kind that you’d find at the orthodontist’s office. With a swipe of the tongue across the top of your mouth, wearers can control external devices like a laptop or phone.

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Would You Wear These Wearables?

BodyNet: Stanford University

The BodyNet rubber sticker from Stanford
The rubber sticker attached to the wrist can bend and stretch as the person’s skin moves, beaming pulse readings to a receiver clipped to the person’s clothing. (Image credit: Bao Lab)

A Sensor That Prints Directly On Your Skin: Penn State

A sensor from Penn State that can be directly printed on skin
With a novel layer to help the metallic components of the sensor bond, an international team of researchers printed sensors directly on human skin

A Sunburn Sensor: Clarkson University

he Clarkson’s team novel bioink enabled them to fabricate a series of UV-sensitive biosensors.
The Clarkson’s team novel bioink enabled them to fabricate a series of UV-sensitive biosensors. Photo via the Applied Materials and Interfaces journal.

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