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iSkin customisable sensors turn skin into a touch-sensitive interaction space for mobile devices.

Someone wearing a smartwatch can look at a calendar or receive e-mails without having to reach further than their wrist. However, the interaction area offered by the watch face is both fixed and small, making it difficult to actually hit individual buttons with adequate precision.

A method currently being developed by a team of computer scientists from Saarland University, Max Planck Institute, Aalto University, Telecom-ParisTech, and Carnegie Mellon University may provide a solution to this problem.  They have developed touch-sensitive stickers made from flexible silicone and electrically conducting sensors that can be worn on the skin.  The publication about ‘iSkin’ won the ‘Best Paper Award’ at the SIGCHI conference, which ranks among the most important conferences within the research area of human computer interaction.  The opensource paper can be found here.

The stickers can act as an input space that receives and executes commands and thus controls mobile devices. Depending on the type of skin sticker used, applying pressure to the sticker could, for example, answer an incoming call or adjust the volume of a music player.  The stickers allow people to enlarge the input space accessible to the user as they can be attached practically anywhere on the body explain the team. The ‘iSkin’ approach enables the human body to become more integrated to technology.

Users can also design their iSkin patches on a computer beforehand to suit their individual tastes. One sticker, for instance, is based on musical notation, another is circular in shape like an LP. The team state that the silicone used to fabricate the sensor patches makes them flexible and stretchable, making them easier to use in an everyday environment. The music player can simply be rolled up and put in a pocket.  The sensors are also skin-friendly, as they are attached to the skin with a biocompatible, medical-grade adhesive. Users can therefore decide where they want to position the sensor patch and how long they want to wear it.

In addition to controlling music or phone calls, the iSkin technology could be used for many other applications. For example, a keyboard sticker could be used to type and send messages. Currently the sensor stickers are connected via cable to a computer system. According to the researchers in-built microchips may in future allow the skin-worn sensor patches to communicate wirelessly with other mobile devices.

Source:  Universität des Saarlandes

iSkin.  Flexible, Stretchable and Visually Customizable On-Body Touch Sensors for Mobile Computing.  In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’15). (Best Paper Award, full paper, to appear).  Steimle et al 2015.
iSkin. Flexible, Stretchable and Visually Customizable On-Body Touch Sensors for Mobile Computing. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’15). (Best Paper Award, full paper, to appear). Steimle et al 2015.

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