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Technology at the service of the senses

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Glasses and hearing aids have improved the sight and hearing of millions of people around the world, but what happens when these senses are almost cancelled? Researchers strive to develop devices that help mitigate human senses injuries and overcome their own limitations

Synchronized hearing aids with other electronic tools, artificial noses and bionic eyes are examples of this sensory innovation. Technology provides solutions where for many there was only silence and darkness.

Connected to hearing aids

Even today no device is capable of restoring hearing loss one hundred percent, there are tools that significantly improve hearing ability, even with noise in the environment. “The most important innovations we have seen recently, in addition to hearing aids that help understand speech even if there is noise, are based on the ability of devices to integrate with the technological world of users

An example is the Oticon Opn hearing aid, which connects to an iPhone or smart TV and works like headphones. So you can talk on the phone, listen to music, or watch a TV show wirelessly. It also enables heating or any home service to be activated when connected to the internet via the IFTTT network. ” We expect continuous progress in the ability of hearing aids to connect to the auxiliary technology that users use every day, ” says Plotnick.

Odour-proof noses

When the food starts to rot, its repulsive smell comes from a compound called cadaverine. A team of scientists has developed an artificial nose that identifies these smells before even our olfactory sense. ” It is a biosensor that mimics the human nose, ” sums up OpenMind Tai Hyun Park, professor at the School of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Seoul National University (South Korea) and one of the creators of the device.

According to the researcher, the artificial nose could help people with problems identifying odors, although at the moment they have been limited to the biosensor recognizing cadaverine. The E. coli bacteria were used as a host to insert the receptor that recognizes the substance. The bacterium was assembled into nanodisks that, within a transistor of carbon nanotubes, formed the artificial nose. The authors propose that the tool be used to locate bodies buried after natural disasters, as the compound is also segregated when a person dies.

Artificial intelligence and bionic eyes

Bionic technology has enabled a Russian woman with visual disabilities in childhood, who lost her sight completely in 2004, to partially regain vision. According to Russia Beyond, the 50-year-old patient has been implanted with a chip in the macula (the central area of the retina). With glasses equipped with a camera, a receiver processes the images it captures and translates them into the eye implant.

The bionic eye, developed in the United States, has already been tested in a dozen visually impaired patients. Without surgery, other devices take advantage of artificial intelligence so that people without vision “see ” what is around them. In this way, an intelligent camera mounted on special glasses allows the user to read texts or identify faces. With the help of a small earpiece, the technology processes the information captured by the camera and translates it into audio, which transmits to the visually impaired person.

A second skin against infections

When a person wears a prosthetic because a limb has been amputated, the sensation in that area is lost. But this could change thanks to an artificial skin developed by researchers from the California Institute of Technology (USA) and the Federal Polytechnic School in Zurich (Switzerland).

The fabric, made of a thin, transparent film of pectin and water, detects temperature changes in a range of 5 to 50 degrees Celsius. The researchers, whose article is published in Science Robotics, propose that the skin be placed also on the bandages so that the doctors know if the patient’s temperature is increasing due to an infection in the wounds. Another way to prevent major evils is the second skin devised by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (USA), designed to protect the military from biological and chemical attacks. Located on the clothing, the carbon nanotubes membrane has been shown to be effective in repelling the dengue virus.

Language for oral cancer damage

Some patients with oral cancer may lose their ability to speak because of the damage caused by tumors in the tongue. A team of dentists from Okayama University (Japan) has developed a mobile language prosthesis for these people, reports The Japan Times. The device is made of resin and connects to the back teeth with a cable. His advantage over other prostheses is that he can move from top to bottom.

Alongside these tools, there are artificial languages to measure and compare flavors. Equipped with sensors, the devices are able to identify organic and inorganic compounds with precision that even improves human sensitivity. These laboratory languages are widely used in the food and beverage industry

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