Tiny computer chips installed on your teeth could one day allow you to monitor everything from the chemical composition of what you're eating, to your ratio of talking to chewing. This technology could be part of your "quantified self" regimen, or a whole new system of surveillance.
According to Jon M. Chang at ABC News, a team in Taiwan led by scientist Polly Huang has invented a 4.5-by-10 millimeter computer chip that can be installed at the base of one of your molars. [Read their scientific paper.] It's fitted out with an accelerometer that detects motion in your mouth. When that motion data is sent to a computer, the research team can determine whether you've been chewing, drinking or talking.
At the same time, Princeton mechanical and aerospace engineer Michael McAlpine is working on his own mouth surveillance technology, to sense the molecular composition of whatever you put in your mouth. Writes Chang:
Rather than go the traditional silicon chip route, his team designed a circuit using graphene, a 1-atom thick conductive material that is directly applied to a tooth. "It's like applying a temporary tattoo," he said.
Although McAlpine's graphene circuit senses specific molecules in the mouth, McAlpine can see a modified version of the circuit that contains an accelerometer. "People are going through a list of devices one by one," he said. "They're trying to figure out how to get [these devices] to interface directly with the body."
So at some point in the future, we may all be tracking our mouths the same way we can track our internet activity today. If you say the wrong words, or eat the wrong molecules, you could receive a citation — or worse.