IEEE Spectrum has an interesting article this month on the possibilities of e-skin. Since I’ve been deeply involved in multiple Internet of things projects lately, it immediately captured my imagination.
Wearable technologies are already becoming mainstream with Google Glass and BodyMedia snatching headlines, but of course this takes it to a whole new level. By integrating circuitry into the skin through flexible adhesives or similar applications, the opportunities for expanding the senses become nearly endless. The article lists augmenting or replacing lost senses, monitoring health conditions, and adding better sensory perception to robots as possible applications, but it also speculates that a bionic skin could be used for extra-sensory communication by sensing the vibrations of the throat and translating that into transmitted signals. My mind immediately jumps to the warfighter, where this skin could provide better condition monitoring, sense the presence of hidden enemies, and identify dangerous chemicals in the air.
I also couldn’t help but think about the IBM Research on Neurosynaptic Chips. I wonder if these concepts will combine someday to produce prosthetics with full sensory capability. It’s an exciting thought, and it shows us that the stuff of science fiction seems to be becoming closer and closer to reality.