WAGT: An artificial throat that’s small like a temporary tattoo

Phil Siarri
2 min readJul 24, 2019
Image of blue sound waves
“Audio wave” by Mary Theresa McLean (Pixabay)

Researchers in China have recently developed a tiny device named “WAGT” (the abbreviation of “wearable artificial graphene throat”) that could improve the lives of many mute people.

Tiny like a temporary tattoo

The team, which is comprised of scientists from the Beijing National Research Center for Information Science and Technology (BNRist) and Tsinghua University, has developed a new wearable artificial throat. When attached to the neck (e.g. like a temporary tattoo), such can transform throat movements into sounds.

Detectors that measure movements on human skin, such as pulse or heartbeat do exist. However, the devices typically cannot convert these motions into sounds. He Tian, Yi Yang, Tian-Ling Ren and colleagues developed an artificial throat prototype possessing both capabilities, yet because the device needed to be taped to the skin, it was not comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. Therefore, the researchers wanted to develop a thinner, skin-like artificial throat that would smoothly integrate the neck like a temporary tattoo.

The mighty graphene

In order to conceive their artificial throat, the researchers “laser-scribed” graphene (a strong and highly conductive material) on a thin sheet of polyvinyl alcohol film. The flexible device measures only 0.6 by 1.2 inches, or roughly twice the size of a human thumbnail. The team used water to attach the film to the skin over a volunteer’s throat and connected it with electrodes to a small armband that contained a circuit board, microcomputer, power amplifier as well as decoder. (Please refer to the following video demonstrations for more context: demo 1, demo 2, demo 3).

When the volunteer (noiselessly) imitated the throat motions of speech, the instrument converted these movements into emitted sounds, like the words “OK” and “No.” The researchers stated that, in the future, mute people could be trained to generate signals with their throats which the device would translate into speech.

Very promising research; a more advanced version of WAGT could be highly beneficial for certain populations. 🌞

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Phil Siarri

Founder of Nuadox | Tech & Innovation Commentator | Digital Strategist | MTL | More about me> linktr.ee/philsiarri