Your skin could be your next interface

humans-channel4-amc-sci-fi-tv-seriesWhile everyone is touting wearables as the next big thing researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Informatics, Saarland University and Carnegie Mellon University are developing a different type of wearable that actually sticks to your skin.

Dubbed iSkin, the silicone rubber-based product is loaded with pressure-sensitive sensors, can made into limitless sizes/shapes and safely adheres to your body.

iSkin can be stuck to your forearm, wrapped around your finger, or even attached to your ear.

According to the researchers, iSkin supports single or multiple touch areas of custom shape and arrangement, as well as more complex widgets, such as sliders and click wheels.

“Recognizing the social importance of skin, we show visual design patterns to customize functional touch sensors and allow for a visually aesthetic appearance. Taken together, these contributions enable new types of on-body devices,” their report said.

The researchers see iSkin being used to control smartphone and smartwatch functions like a stopwatch during sports activities, adjusting music playback and volume, and answering phone calls.

They have developed a prototype rollup 30-key QWERTY keyboard than can wrap around your forearm and attach to a smartwatch

The sensors are constructed using several layers of silicon. Non-conductive parts of the iSkin are built using transparent polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), while conductors are made with carbon dope PDMS. These materials allow iSkin to be very flexible and stretchable (tests showed that the sensors could be stretched by up to 30 percent with no ill effects).

Perhaps what is technologically significant, is that they have also worked out a way of removing iSkin without ripping out your arm hair at the same time.

iSkin was first developed to give robots a “touch” sensation similar to that of humans. But now, that same methodology is allowing humans to become even more interfaced with our devices.