Wearable electronic is still in it’s early stage, make the first baby steps into the harsh world of commercialization but visionaries and researchers work already on the next big thing in getting electronics closer to our bodies, actually inside our bodies.
Having electronic implants is not new and some people depend their life on it with pacemakers for example. But these developments can also be used for a more playful, fashionable purpose or artistic like the Bare Conductive concept which uses conductive ink to paint circuitry on the skin.
Other companies have patented the human skin to be used for power and data transmission. A handshake can exchange information from one Blackberry to the other in a wearers pocket.
According to a recent Technology Review article, researchers at the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois, the Tufts University in Medford, MA, and the University of Pennsylvania building thin, flexible silicon electronics on silk substrates that almost completely integrate into the body.
While electronics usually has to be encased to protect it from the body, these electronics don’t need protection. During the implanting the electronics is covered in a silk like substrate which melts away over time and the thin silicon circuits left behind don’t cause irritation because they are just nanometers thick.
The group is developing silk-silicon LEDs that might act as photonic tattoos that can show blood-sugar readings, as well as arrays of conformable electrodes that might interface with the nervous system.
The Skin LEDs have been successfully implanted into mice and now it’s time to find volunteers for the next testing phase.
Electronic giant Philips is exploring the body as platform for electronics as well with their version of an electronic Tattoo, the SKIN:Tattoo which is stimulated by touch. Sensual navigation along the landscape of the body paints tattoo like pattern on the skin.
The good thing about electronic tattoo’s: they can be instantly and painlessly switched off or changed compared to needle and ink tattoo’s – that is, one has to go over the implanting pain first.
For now I am taking a step back and focus on wearable, textile electronic before going under my skin.