Tooth Sensor Watches for Bad Oral Habits

A tooth sensor can detect chewing, smoking, coughing and other mouth motions

2 min read
Tooth Sensor Watches for Bad Oral Habits

A tiny tooth sensor can detect whether a person is deviating from a diet or stuck on a smoking habit. The capability to monitor mouth motions may help physicians keep track of a patient's progress or allow a patient to better understand his or her health habits.

The sensor's accelerometer, in combination with machine learning software, will detect and distinguish between chewing, smoking, coughing, or speaking, according to New Scientist. The device's inventors at National Taiwan University in Taipei glued prototypes onto eight people's dentures to show the system could accurately recognize what the wearer is doing almost 94 percent of the time.

Working prototypes of the tooth sensor used wires to connect to a power source and a data-logging device—an awkward arrangement for human testers. But inventor Hao-hua Chu and colleagues envision the tooth sensor eventually being powered by a micro-battery and transmitting data wirelessly via Bluetooth to a smartphone. They also hope to embed the device inside artificial teeth that can be easily removed and customized for each individual.

The tooth sensor could perhaps track dental health habits as well—that is, if researchers can fine-tune the machine learning software. Trevor Johnson, a vice-chair of research at the Faculty of General Dental Practice in the UK, told New Scientist that the sensor might help monitor teeth grinding or clenching.

But commercializing the next-generation version of the tooth sensor will require more than just practical wireless communication and battery-recharging capabilities. The device's developers still need to ensure, to the satisfaction of government regulators, that it's safe to have a Bluetooth-enabled device broadcasting from a person's mouth. Taiwanese researchers also plan to securely seal the device's electronic components so they're not harmful if swallowed—much like the futuristic camera pills already being tested.

It's still a stretch to go from detecting a person's chewing motions to understanding their dietary habits. But detecting motions related to smoking or teeth grinding may prove easier for the tooth sensor to handle in the near future.

Photo: John Lamb/Getty Images

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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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