Friday, April 9, 2010

Computers at Skin Level

So by now everyone's read my guest post on nanomedicine, right? Well, one of the advances I was considering discussing I opted not to because it's really a whole 'nother idea, and that post could easily have been twice as long if I'd included it.

What's the advance? Electronics that can be implanted in your skin.* It's really not as gross as it sounds. The electronics are placed on silk, which then "melts away" leaving the circuitry in place. Simple, really. Why haven't we thought of it before?

These electronics are being touted as a medical tool, mainly a diagnostic one, which is why the link ended up in the medicine folder of my blog folder in bookmarks**, but I realized while writing the guest post that medical applications barely scratch the surface of possibilities.

First of all, the main article itself mentions "LED tattoos". Think about that: instead of inking your skin, you could have arrays of light, kind of like a Light Brite, only cooler. You could even hook up those lights to a computer (or brain), and thus be able to change the image at will by selecting which lights and which colors you wanted displayed. And you'd glow in the dark, too!

Secondly, there's all this talk about wearable computers***, as in computers in or on clothing. It's even briefly been the Next Big Thing in computing—until quantum computers and the iPad took over. There are books, too. My question, why use clothing when you can put the circuits right on the body? That's got to be more sensitive to movement than anything woven into cloth. Something similar in concept's being done with "skinput"**** and the Digital Tattoo Interface*****.

I realize that daily wear could easily rub a lot of the electronics off unless they were really, truly embedded, so in reality we'd probably only get circuits in low-traffic areas, but even then, the possibilities…

  • So long, tracking criminals by GPS bracelets. Stick the tracker on the small of their back, where they can't reach.
  • No more medical bracelets reading, "I have [insert disease here]. If I'm unconscious, call 911". Your skin will call the ambulance for you and check if there's a doctor in the house.
  • Why stop at 3D when you can feel the movie?
  • Why buy a keyboard when your finger positions are all you need.
  • The Back-of-Hand Mouse and the Hand Position Steering Wheel
  • Calling your friends couldn't be easier with a lip-and-ear connected circuit

And so on, and so on, and so on.

** Yes, I have whole folders within folders of links. Yes, I might be slightly anal.
*** Gizmodo
**** Engadget
***** Gizmodo

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