Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Too drunk to drive? This wearable gadget will tell you

A temporary tattoo that can be used to keep track of how drunk you are has become one of the hottest gadgets in the news this past week. The device was developed by researchers in the UC San Diego Center for Wearable Sensors, led by nanoengineering professor Joseph Wang and electrical engineering professor Patrick Mercier.

The tattoo can be worn on the arm and works by releasing a drug across the skin that induces sweat. Electrodes that have been screen printed on the tattoo electrochemically detect the alcohol level in the user's sweat. The tattoo is powered by a small electronic circuit board (about the size of a stick of gum) that communicates the data via Bluetooth to a mobile device.

Researchers envision this device as a convenient alternative to a breathalyzer, as well as a tool to help prevent drunk driving incidents. For example, the technology could be integrated into a car's ignition interlock software to prevent it from starting if the driver is intoxicated. Or an AA sponsor could use it to check up on a sponsee.

"When you're out at a party of a bar, this sensor could send alerts to your phone to let you know much you've been drinking," said Jayoung Kim, a materials science and engineering PhD student and co-first author of the study.

"This device can use a Bluetooth connection, which is something a breathalyzer can't do," added Somayeh Imani, an electrical engineering PhD student who's also a co-first author of the work.

The gadget has been featured in various media outlets including IFLScience!, BBC World ServiceIEEE SpectrumYahoo Beauty, Glamour, MunchiesSan Diego Union Tribune and NBC San Diego.

Read the full press release and more details about the device here.

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