When race-car driver Jon Herb does a lap at the Indy 500 racetrack, an electronic vest lets him keep watch on his heart without taking his eyes off the road. His prototype LifeShirt— developed by Miami physician Martin Sackner in collaboration with the VivoMetrics Company— contains sensors that monitor more than 30 vital signs, including blood pressure, lung function, and even body position. These data are stored in an ordinary Visor palmtop computer and can be uploaded to a Web site, where Herb or his physicians can analyze them to understand the stresses that occur while driving. Herb's heart rate hit 80 percent of the maximum as he experienced forces up to 4 g's during his races.
Sackner hopes that LifeShirt will eventually find wide use among the chronically ill, who could benefit from continuous medical monitoring. "All a doctor can get now is a snapshot of your health; this is a complete feature film. It could even call the emergency room directly if something goes wrong," he says. Later this year several pharmaceutical companies also plan to test the device, which could provide detailed information about adverse drug reactions during clinical trials.