Computing in your fingernails and other weird wearables

Computers in your fingernails. Temporary tattoos laden with sensors. These are some of the new wearable technologies that UC Berkeley engineer and artist Eric Paulos is developing with his colleagues in the Hybrid Ecologies Laboratory. Mark Frauenfelder and I interviewed Eric about Cosmetic Computing in this episode of For Future Reference, a new podcast from Institute for the Future:

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Temporary tattoos act as "on-skin user interfaces"

MIT and Microsoft researchers demonstrated a system of gold leaf temporary tattoos for "on-skin user interfaces" including a touch sensor, near field communication antennae, and a low-res thermochromic display that changes color. From the research description:

DuoSkin draws from the aesthetics found in metallic jewelry-like temporary tattoos to create on-skin devices which resemble jewelry. DuoSkin devices enable users to control their mobile devices, display information, and store information on their skin while serving as a statement of personal style. We believe that in the future, on-skin electronics will no longer be black-boxed and mystified; instead, they will converge towards the user friendliness, extensibility, and aesthetics of body decorations, forming a DuoSkin integrated to the extent that it has seemingly disappeared.

DuoSkin (MIT)

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Electronic temporary tattoo measures how drunk you are

University of California San Diego nanoengineers developed a flexible, wearable sensor that measures the blood alcohol level of its wearer and transmits the info to a mobile device. From UCSD News:

The device consists of a temporary tattoo—which sticks to the skin, induces sweat and electrochemically detects the alcohol level—and a portable flexible electronic circuit board, which is connected to the tattoo by a magnet and can communicate the information to a mobile device via Bluetooth.

The device could be integrated with a car’s alcohol ignition interlocks, or friends could use it to check up on each other before handing over the car keys, he added.

“When you’re out at a party or at a bar, this sensor could send alerts to your phone to let you know how much you’ve been drinking,” said Jayoung Kim, a materials science and engineering PhD student.

"Noninvasive Alcohol Monitoring Using a Wearable Tattoo-Based Iontophoretic-Biosensing System" (ACS Sensors)

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Listen: podcast about the alleged "data" collected by wearable devices

Rachel "Datapunk" Kalmar is a brilliant data scientist with a background in neuroscience, connected devices, sensors, and wearables. Read the rest

Kickstarting a prismatic, hat-brim mounted heads-up display for your phone

The Hattrickwear is an improbable ball-cap designed to mount your phone horizontally along your eyeline with a mirror and prism that keeps your screen in your field of vision all the time. Read the rest

Imogen Heap's musical gloves

Sean sends us, "a video interview with Imogen Heap describing her homemade electronic interface gloves that control her music interface software by the movement and positions of her hands." Heap is kickstarting an open source hardware version of the gloves. Read the rest

Google Glass is a borg mullet

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Conductive cosmetics to control mobile devices

Computer scientist Katia Vega has developed conductive eye shadow and false eyelashes that can be used to control wearable computers. For example, an extended blink could trigger your phone's camera. "We use voluntary movements to amplify intentions – using our body as a new input device," Vega, a researcher at Rio de Janeiro's Pontifical Catholic University, told New Scientist. Read the rest

Electronic cotton and stretchable silicon

Over at our sponsor Intel's My Life Scoop site, I wrote about the future of wearable computing:

Electronic Cotton Several university laboratories are developing transistors — the building blocks of all computers — that are literally woven from cotton fibers. In a recent project led by Cornell University’s Textiles Nanotechnology Laboratory, engineers coated cotton with gold nano particles and a conductive polymer layer. So far, they’ve only created simple circuits as a proof of concept. The first applications will likely be, say, clothing with chemical sensors for firefighters or shirts that measure vital signs. But according to Lab director Juan Hinestroza, “If you think about how many fibers you have in your T-shirt, and how many interconnections you have between the weft and the warp of the fabric, you could get pretty decent computing power.”

Stretchable Silicon University of Illinois nano scientist John Rogers developed a method to print ultra-thin silicon circuits, like those on a computer chip, onto a highly-elastic surface that you can stick on your skin. Think of a temporary tattoo containing electronic components that are one-fifth the thickness of human hair. The possible uses of this are broad, ranging from a tiny patch that will detect when you need more sunscreen and alert you, to implantable (yes implantable) sensors that keep a constant vigil for infections inside the body. Rogers spun out a company called MC10 to commercialize the technology and has already partnered with Reebok on a forthcoming wearable device to track athletic performance.

"Smartly Dressed: The Future of Wearable Computing" Read the rest