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Solar-Powered Eye Sensor

A cornea-implanted computer can monitor the eyeball's pressure

3 min read

In the future, that twinkle in your loved one's eye might be an implanted solar-powered pressure monitor. At the 2011 IEEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference in February, engineers from the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, described their work on a cubic-millimeter-size sensor meant to monitor pressure inside the eye. The researchers have yet to test the device in human eyes or animal ones, but they hope their system will one day thwart optic nerve damage brought on by glaucoma.

To determine a glaucoma patient's treatment, doctors must monitor pressure inside the eye, says Gregory Chen, a graduate student of electrical engineering at Michigan. Today's methods gauge that pressure by pushing on the cornea, the eye's clear outer coating. The results may be inaccurate: "If you just happen to have a really thick cornea, your eye is going to be harder, no matter what the pressure is," Chen says. The engineers' prototype device would allow a microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) capacitive sensor to record pressure from inside the eye about every 15 minutes and store it to static RAM. Once a day, the system would wirelessly transmit the day's data, via two on-chip inductors, to a wand. The inductors would send the data at both 400- and 900-megahertz carrier frequencies, as a means of mitigating the signal's noise and increasing its range.

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic

Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

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