The Future is Now: We’re Slowly Becoming Cyborgs
When we picture our technical future, there’s some consensus. We imagine flying cars, teleportation, space travel being nbd, and food in pill form. But how about medical care in pill form? No, I’m not talking about medicine, I’m talking about measuring your vital signs with one pill.
They’re called ingestibles, and they’re going to revolutionize the healthcare industry.
Today, measuring vital signs such as heart and respiratory rate involves skin contact using external devices like a stethoscope, an ECG, or pulse oximetry. While that’s all well and good, it can be an inconvenience for some and at times, for trauma patients like burn victims, impossible. If there’s information you need without touching the skin, your next best option is an ingestible.
Developed at MIT, this type of sensor could make it infinitely easier to access not just trauma patients, but monitor soldiers in battle, perform long-term evaluation of patients with chronic illnesses, or improve training for professional and amateur athletes.
The ingestible is just the latest in a series of devices that monitor core body temperature, photograph innards, and keep track of prescription use. However, each of those can only measure one at a time. This device is capable of monitoring three at once. It’s equipped with a microphone, a thermometer, and a battery with a life long enough to survive from mouth to rectum of whatever mid-size mammal it’s traveling through.
As the device travels through our body, it’s tugged by the very same forces that moves food through the digestive system. One component gathers temperature, while a microphone acts as a stethoscope, recording the heart and lungs and transmitting the data to a wireless device that translates into heart and respiratory rate.
Ingestibles got their start in the 1980s, when NASA and Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory got together to develop a “thermometer pill” to record the core body temperature of astronauts as they do space stuff in space. Spacesuits seal off an astronaut from the extreme range of temperatures in space, but present the risk of overheating from body heat and humidity trapped inside the suit. The device they developed back then was able to successfully transmit a signal from astronauts bodies to NASA computers.
The thermometer pill later evolved to be used for military means, such as measuring body temperature for Marine rifle squads wearing full combat gear in the summer, or for teams that works with chemical or biological threats. Athletes, particularly football players who suffer heatstroke, have also taken up the thermometer pill to help prevent and protect NFL athletes from heatstroke.
In short, this device has a lot of uses for a range of people in different professions and situations where their body would need to be monitored. This particular ingestible is not quite ready for human testing, but has shown great success in pigs.
When the device is ready for humans, there will likely be an ‘ick factor,’ or the expected conspiracy nut who think that the device will be used to spy on them. But once they’re over those little things, this little tech pill will most certainly change the way we monitor our bodies in innovative and practical means.
The future of healthcare is here. And it’s in pill form.