Prevue (Wearable Pregnancy Ultrasound) by Melody Yi-Yun Shiue
2011 - 2012, Silver A' Scientific Instruments, Medical Devices and Research Equipment Design Award Winner
1) Recent Australian research shows pregnant women only detect up to a third of fetal activity and can cause anxiety and release stressful hormones into the womb when unnecessary. 2) Adaptive learning skills start in utero. 3)Winner of 2010 Australian Design Award is a touch-screen portable ultrasound scanner; I thought: why not make it wearable?
The abdominal monitor reinforces proximity by bringing the focus back onto the belly, rather than on an external screen. The keypad is intuitive for optimal haptic navigation, moreover emphasizing the iconic gesture of embrace; allowing other members of the family especially the father to connect with the foetus in its context. It could also be an educational moment for other members of the family. The insight is to keep the mothers in a positive state of mind. By establishing early bonding prolongs maternal relationship post-birth as well as delivering a healthy child. PreVue not only gives you the opportunity to interact and record a continuous growth development throughout gestation, but also an early understanding of the unborn child's personality as you see it yawning, rolling, smiling etc., bringing you closer till the day it finally rests into your arms. PreVue can also be visualized as a telemedicinal tool for women living in remote areas. Its form and usability is approachable and intuitive respectively for ease of operation, as well saving cost & time in transportation to hospitals or clinics. For more rural locations where midwives are still in practice, PreVue can provide assistance in helping the mothers & fathers connect and understand the health and development of their unborn child (hence reducing their ignorance, uncertainty and anxiety towards giving birth). It is lightweight to carry, soft and comfortable to touch and therefore helps relieve any white-coat syndromes that come with visiting doctors in a medical environment.
Design Challenges
The biggest hurdle was compromising to medical safety restrictions and convincing physicians the potential in this design concept. The obstetrician opposed to the idea of making ultrasound a domestic application, as well as negating to the possibility of telemedicine formations. He presented me with the issues of ultrasonic exposure in relation to thermal effects in foetuses. This was a few weeks into the design development phase, and made all efforts seem futile. I strove for more research into this controversy and discovered that there are indeed regulations made on its practice and justified design modifications accordingly. Another concern is also medical ethics that comes with personal use of ultrasound. This is still under debate, although my interviewees stated that all mothers want the best for their babies, and if it is something that can give them positive ongoing outcomes with a healthy baby then they will utilize rationally. I also had to stress the fact that PreVue is not intended to replace diagnostic ultrasound, but it may have help with early discovery of fetal abnormality. Throughout my research phase, I was also told that sonographers get shoulder/neck pains from scanning through dozens of patients each day. Perhaps it can be used as an actual medical apparatus where all the doctor needs to do is strap on the belt, and diagnose the foetus in its context, without having to manoeuvre their arms in an awkward position whilst staring at an external screen away from the patient.
Production Technology
It is an e-textile based apparatus that uses 4D ultrasound using Capacitive Micro-machined Transducers (cMUT) with cost-effective, mass-productive, e-compatible advantages in comparison to traditional transducers. Other benefits include the exclusion of ultrasonic bio-gel and efficient manufacturing processes. Ultrasound can only be exposed under recommended time and frequency margins (British Medical Ultrasound Society); hence a timer-indicator, temperature sensor & an auto-switch is included in the design, with a fixed ultrasonic frequency and power settings. An international team of engineers lead by Dr John Rogers (University of Illinois) developed a stretchable LED screen at micron-scale which can be used for displaying biomedical information in the context of illness origin. It uses common thin film processing and computer chip wiring methods to bond interconnected micro-LEDs onto stretchable substrates that shines brighter and lasts longer. A German eTextile research project (STELLA) experimented possibilities for future wearable, durable and washable electronics. Polyurethane films with copper conduits are the best materials for withstanding and lasting through stress and strain tests. Silicon over-moulding can be applied to the electronics to protect from water.
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