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A laser that reads you inside



A laser that reads you inside


Let the world or, better still, to colleagues, friends and relatives know how you feel at a certain moment or, better yet, how it feels while you are at your computer . This is the purpose of a singular “bandana” developed by a crew of researchers from Tufts University which, according to InformationWeek, is anything but a joke. The concept of this tool has already got a loan of 445 thousand dollars by the US National Science Foundation.

The heart of the device is the spectroscopy known as fNIRS, an acronym that stands for functional near-infrared spectroscopy: fNIRS sensors are worn together with the bandana, sensors that are equipped with laser diodes that shoot near-infrared light towards the forehead and which – explains the Science Daily – can thus keep an eye on the oxygenation levels of the brain.

In fact, light penetrates two or three centimeters: in general it tends to pass through human tissues, a behavior that changes when it encounters oxygenated (or non-oxygenated) hemoglobin in the blood. In that case the light waves are absorbed from the active – blood-filled – areas of the brain, and any remaining light is reflected back to the fNIRS sensors.

Nothing science fiction, assure project managers such as Sergio Fantini, one of the Turfts researchers. It is, he insists, absolutely a spectroscopy non-invasive and non-harmful however, able to tell some things about the state of concentration, or boredom, or tiredness, of the wearer of the bandana.

In this phase of the research, the scientists do not promise any kind of accuracy but explain that, by monitoring this kind of data, it is possible to arrive at a reading that in the future could guarantee to identify “emotions” as frustration .

According to a colleague of Fantini, Robert Jacob, “new evaluation techniques that monitor the user experience while working with the computer are increasingly important. In one moment a user can be bored, in the next he can be overwhelmed ”.

It remains to be understood, obviously, what the purpose of a bandana of this type could be: to be used probably in the medical field, because a “detector” of this type, if used for example in work environments, could prove to be anything but a benefit for the wearer. Of interest is the fact that one of the first hypothesized applications concerns, as mentioned, the computer user . It is the computer that could “read” the user’s oxygenation and thus react appropriately.