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This Mini Cooper checks your vital signs while you drive

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Meet Nigel, a sensor-laden Mini Cooper that can track your vital signs and maybe help monitor your health.

This driver-tracking vehicle is actually a combination of 230 sensors and an iPhone app that monitors the driver’s habits and even creates specific driving games or suggests activities, like going for a jog. Technology Review reports.

While the gaming and activities aspect of the Nigel experience was the inspiration to its USC Cinematic Arts developers, the car could also aid its driver's health.

Health care needs to be more integrated into the rest of our daily lives, says Leslie Saxon from USC’s Keck School of Medicine, and founder of the Center for Body Computing.

Body information sensors in a car could be one way to help meet this need. The smart-car team plans to integrate sensors into the steering wheel that would track the driver's heart rate and blood pressure. And one day it may also monitor air pollution. Some potential uses:

  • Perhaps your heart rate goes up with miles per hour, or maybe your heart rate slows when a relaxing song is played through the speakers.
  • You can learn what your body responds to by watching how your body metrics change while listening to certain music or visiting certain places.
  • It’s also a good place to measure your response to stress since being in the car creates a constantly changing and potentially stressful environment.

Experts say more body awareness can improve health in patients with chronic conditions. When patients can track their blood pressure, heart rate, and weight at home and wirelessly report their information, the readmission of heart failure patients drop by 50 percent.

Saxon thinks that by integrating health metrics into a fun experience like driving, patients may get addicted to their data. "What digital allows us to do in a very fundamental way is desegregate health care, and I think that that's one of the major problems with health care,” she says. “It's not integrated into other experiences."

Nigel will be presented at the Body Computing Conference this week.

[Via Technology Review, Daily Trojan]

Image from USC Cinematic Arts

— By on October 8, 2012, 1:11 PM PST

Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure