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Stanford researchers go from heaven to Earth in 'lifeguard' test

om Hines, the team built the system, designing it to relay astronauts' physiological data to doctors on Earth and to withstand the wear and tear of use aboard the International Space Station.

The outcome was a computer about the size of an old-fashioned Walkman that straps on just above the wearer's waist and a base station that can run on a tablet, laptop, desktop or pocket PC. The wearable computer, called the CPOD, takes in 2-lead ECG and respiration information from stick-on sensors. In addition, it detects temperature, body orientation and acceleration, pulse rate and blood oxygen level and supports a plug-in blood pressure monitor.

Once the device gathers the information, it can either stream or download it wirelessly to the base station, which then transmits the data over the Internet to any designated computer.

In February 2003, Greg Kovacs, MD, PhD, associate professor of electrical engineering, joined the testing effort and offered to wear it hiking and climbing. The hikes revealed glitches, electrode problems and provided feedback on comfort and ease of use.

"We learned: Don't use electrodes that have very sticky electrode gel. That stuff comes off when you sweat," said Mundt, who took part in the climbs.

The most dramatic test so far put the equipment through an environment as close to extraterrestrial as possible. On that trip, the expedition members wore LifeGuard on a journey to the top of Licancabur volcano, on the border of Bolivia and Chile. It's an environment that combines low-oxygen, low atmospheric pressure and high ultraviolet radiation. Once at the peak, the team leader tested the equipment in a yet more rigorous environment by jumping into a lake. At about 19,200 feet, it's one of the planet's highest. Kovacs also carried out the key mission for the LifeGuard team: live transmission of his vitals from a high-altitude, remote loca
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15-Jun-2004


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