Quickly Getting Yourself Into a Sticky Situation

Sometimes people stop to reflect on the fantastic advances made in the world of computing over the past few decades, perhaps astonishing that we all have supercomputers in our pockets today. And it’s surprising to think that the tiny smartphones we carry with us pack more computing power than we could have imagined in room-sized computers of the past. But where do we go from here? New and improved cameras every year? boring! Where are the game-changing technological innovations? Some believe that the next area could be wearables, on-skin computing devices. This kind of device could provide a whole new way to transparently improve our lives.

Computing technology has dramatically miniaturized to the extent that these types of devices are possible. Sufficient processing power and memory can fit on a small chip and these processing units require very little energy to operate. However, the lack of standardized toolkits that developers can use to create wearables that can be worn on the skin makes the entry barriers in this space very high in terms of cost and required technical expertise. A team from Cornell University Development of multi-purpose wearable on-skin computing platform Designed for rapid prototyping. Modular system of flexible skin patches with standardized connectors with each pre-programmed compute module.

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The plug-and-play system is made of temporary tattoo paper, silicone fiber stabilizer and water to create a flexible, soft film structure that can be adhered to the skin. The patch can be cut to any size and has male and female cut lines along the edges to make it easy to connect the modules together. For ease of prototyping, we designed artificial skin that is durable enough to be put on and off the human body repeatedly. Computing resources and sensors are added to each module via a flexible printed circuit board. By arranging a series of modules with different functions, you can quickly create device prototypes with complex functions.

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To determine whether SkinKit worked as expected in real users, a small study was conducted with 9 participants from STEM and design backgrounds. They were asked to design and build the device during a 90-minute workshop, and the input of these participants was used to further refine the system. A large study was then conducted with 25 participants over two days. In a short course of study, participants created devices related to health and well-being, personal safety, and assistive technology. One of the devices was a wristband that vibrated when a visually impaired person tried to hit an object. It’s not bad to spend a total of two days speeding up, designing, and building the device.

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The team is teaching middle school students about device design using the SkinKit platform. In addition to their initial goal of building a rapid prototyping platform, they see the system as an important way to get more people interested in STEM. If you look down the road, you will also see applications in various fields such as art and fashion.

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