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Friday, April 4, 2014

'Smart Skin' May Be the Next Big Thing in Wearable Computers

Left) Image courtesy of the University of Illinois; (Right) Donghee Son and Jongha Lee

Parkinson’s patients could one day ditch their pills for a stretchy skin patch with a mind of its own. Using specialized sensors, the patch would monitor the wearer's vital signs, beam the information to a doctor, and administer medication as needed. While such devices still face substantial obstacles before wide-scale implementation, two teams of researchers have announced innovations combining standard electronics with flexible materials that may bring the futuristic concept closer to reality.
Conventional electronics, such as those found in computers and smartphones, are built on stiff slabs of silicon. While durable, the design makes for bulky and uncomfortable wearable devices. Flexible electronics instead print circuits onto limber strips of silicone or plastic. The bendable base layers make devices twist and stretch when attached to the skin, but they are limited by a lack of key components such as batteries and processors that currently do not exist in flexible form...

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