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Surprising Science

Why Your Next Health Care Assistant May Be In Your Garage

At this week's Body Computing Conference, one team of researchers is unveiling a car with special sensors that monitor its driver's health and habits.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What’s the Latest Development?

University of Southern California researchers this week displayed a Mini Cooper that tracks its driver’s habits with the help of over 200 body information sensors and a corresponding iPhone app. The car was originally designed for gaming, but it became apparent that it could be adapted to monitor a person’s health as well. It was unveiled at this year’s Body Computing Conference, run by the university’s Center for Body Computing, described on its Web site as “an interdisciplinary brain trust” representing medicine, cinematic arts, business and engineering.

What’s the Big Idea?

Any tool that will help people stay connected to their own health is useful, and a car that could track vital statistics such as heart rate and make adjustments as needed (such as playing soothing music when the heart rate was elevated, for example) would be a valuable health aid. Self-tracking in a car, which is itself “a constantly changing and stressful environment” could be very beneficial, but one physician suggests those who have a particular health issue would gain the most from the technology. Still, even the perfectly healthy may find the body awareness tracking strangely addictive…until the car warns them not to go into that McDonald’s drive-thru.

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