Computer or Temporary tattoo

Kate Gramling Posted on October 16, 2012 by Kate Gramling
Computer or Temporary tattoo

Engineers are scientists are working together to develop electronic devices so small and flexible that they attach to the skin like a temporary tattoo.

The possible applications of such electronics are fascinating:

  • Measure heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, neural activity, and other vital information about patients without bulky machines and wires.
  • Simulate pressure and texture of objects through circuits built into gloves, creating more life-like virtual realities for training and gaming experiences.
  • Maintain precision control of machines such as flying drones or exploratory rovers with simple hand movements.
  • Send messages without making a sound through an invisible, stamp-sized patch on your neck that interprets silent words from the movement of your throat.

“Making devices that have real benefits to society has been a real focus of our team, especially in recent years,” says John Rogers, who heads the team from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “We are aiming to create devices that bring new ways to address health problems and other grand challenges in society.”

They are working in the area of “biointegrated technology” - a expanding field of research and development where devices are created to interface directly with living things.

Todd Coleman, an engineer with the team, is working to improve how people and devices “talk” to each other. He imagines a time when you will be able to send information directly from your brain to someone else’s through such devices. Someday, he says, “you could interact with a friend in both the natural and virtual world, using not only your behavior but also your thoughts.”

IMAGE: An "epidermal" electronic device designed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  John A. Rogers.

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