I love the idea of wearable chemical sensors. I wish I lived in a world in which a simple wristband could automatically detect the chemical signals of looming heart attack, diabetes, or cancer. This oversized wearable won’t tell me that my love for crispy chicken skin or strawberry sponge cake will be the last nails on my coffin, though. It was developed to warn its wearer against external chemical and biological threats.
Developed by a team led by Joseph Wang at the University of California San Diego, the ring is composed of two parts: an electromechanical sensor to catch threatening agents and a circuit board that processes data and sends it to a smartphone using Bluetooth. According to its creators, their highly sensitive prototype can detect “explosives and nerve agents, both in vapor and liquid phases.” They claim that its functions could be expanded to detect more environmental menaces, too, saying that it holds “considerable promise for meeting rapidly growing defense and security sensing needs.”
Not surprisingly, the ring’s development was funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency–part of the Department of Defense dedicated to chemical and biological defense. The 2,000-strong agency works “to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists and other enemies by locking down, monitoring, and destroying weapons and weapons related materials,” providing a shield against “chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high- yield explosives.”
I want to imagine that the development of this ring is for their agents and not a sign that the population will soon need them. I don’t want to live in a future where the government gives these things away in Cracker Jack boxes.