Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Scientists in Germany have developed a sensor that can be worn on the skin to turn it into a surface for controlling mobile devices such as smartphones and smartwatches

A device known as iSkin has been developed at Max Planck Institute for Informatics and Saarland University. There are numerous versions of this device, each with a different shape and size, all of which include pressure sensors to allow the user to control their mobile devices using their body.

This device was based off of a piece of technology used in robotics to allow robots to better sense their surroundings. Another known use for it is in the making of advanced prosthetics, capable of sensing changes in pressure and temperature. And new uses are being discovered each day.

"Current electronics are mostly using rigid components which are very uncomfortable to wear on the body and are limiting the locations to, for example, the wrist or on the head to be worn," said Martin Weigel, a co-developer of the sensor, in an interview with Reuters. "But our sensor is a flexible and stretchable sensor, so it can cover many locations. For example, even the backside of the ear or the forearm. So, we have a much larger input space than current electronics allow for."

The new iSkin is made from polydimethylsiloxane, a silicone-based polymer, mixed with black carbon powder. The sensors are added in the form of patterns that resemble tattoos and two translucent layers of silicone are added over both sides of the device.

"The sensor is made out of bio-compatible silicone and carbon-doped silicone. So there are carbon particles inside the silicone which make it conductive so we can use it for electronics," continued Weigel.

The good thing about this sensor design is that they can be removed at any time that the users feels that they are no longer needed. On top of that the sensors are built to be very sturdy and can remain operational even after being bent or stretched. Among the possible uses of this device there is the ability to answer calls and control music and volume settings and there is also a keyboard designed for use with smart watches.

While this technology is still in the development phase and needs to be connected with wires to a computer, researchers are convinced that they can develop a way for it to connect wirelessly using Bluetooth or WiFi. Another thing that is being looked into is the use of natural powering system like, body heat of the user to eliminate the need for recharging. This device is still in the development stage and its creators are hoping that other researchers will create their own similar inventions based on its design.


"...to allow the user to control their mobile devices using their body." But I can already control my smartphone with my body... using my fingers!

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