iSkin turns your arm into a digital touch panel

Do you find the current spate of wearables a bit on the showy side? Perhaps you see the benefit of controlling your smartphone remotely, but find your doughy digits get in the way of accurate text input? iSkin could one day be the answer, if and when it rolls out into mainstream use.

Created by Saarland University and the Max Planck Institute for Informatics, iSkin can be produced in different shapes and sizes to attach to any part of the skin you choose – although I’d probably suggest the arm or leg, rather than anywhere more exhibitionist. Each temporary touch tattoo is made from biocompatible silicone rubber, with pressure-sensitive sensors, and can be attached to the skin using medical-grade adhesive.

The sensor is made out of biocompatible silicone and carbon-doped silicon. So there are carbon particles inside the silicone which make it conductive so we can use it for electronics,” explained co-developer Martin Weigel.

Right now, the prototype can answer calls, play music and adjust volume, but that’s barely scratching the surface of its potential. The photo below, for example, shows a large rollable keyboard for answering texts via smartwatch.iskin_watch_keyboard

Could do with a designer’s touch, granted. Fortunately, depending on the input required, users can print their own custom iSkin patches, allowing a sense of style – and practicality – to be instilled. In my case, a phablet-style keyboard might be appropriate for my thigh, while my spindly arms would be better suited to a volume slider.

We’re the first to look into how we can use it on the body to control mobile devices; so as a kind of second skin which nicely conforms to your body,” explained Weigel.

There is a catch – at the moment, the prototypes require a wired connection. The researchers are confident that in time the technology can evolve to contain integrated wireless chips. They even suggest it might be possible for the iSkin to be powered from the wearer’s body using an energy-harvesting system (although hopefully they’ll consult a marketing agency to come up with a more pleasant-sounding description).

For the moment at least, there’s no plan for a commercial release of iSkin. For now, you’ll just have to watch the video of iSkin in action below – and start scoping out your dream touch tattoo.

Images via Oliver Dietze and Martin Weigel

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