Forget Smart Watches, Get Smart Skin

As reported in Science Advances Tomoyuki Yokota and his colleagues from the Someya Group at the University of Tokyo have created the next generation of cybernetic skin, solving a major challenge previously holding them up.

(Source: japantimes.co.jp)

(Source: japantimes.co.jp)

They’re calling their creation e-skin. E-skin flexes even crumples and works well in water and air. At one-tenth the thickness of a human hair, there’s just one small challenge left to solve. More on that later.

One thing E-skin may solve, however, is satisfying the paradox of today’s wearable technology. Users want a ton of functionality [battery life, display acreage, speed] wrapped up in an invisible-yet-always handy package. How can a watch, ring, bracelet or otherwise be two things at once; easy to read, but invisible?

Yokota would have you ditch your wearables altogether.

(Source: techradar.com)

(Source: techradar.com)

What if you could install everything you need under your skin? Need to know the time? Look at your wrist, not the watch on your wrist, but your actual wrist. Can’t remember a password? It’s in your palm.

In the future, we could hide displays all over our bodies. They’d probably still network wirelessly to some central brain, but by the time this tech matures, that central computer could be your belt buckle.

Not only does Yokota’s technology work as a display, it could be decorative. It can interact with biometrics, giving users real-time feedback about what’s happening below the skin, so the health and fitness implications could be huge.

(Source: cnet.com)

(Source: cnet.com)

Body as Display

As the debate of big screen versus small screen rages on, with companies like Apple reverting to their 4-inch iPhone screen for the iPhone SE, a world without external screens could solve many challenges for fitness folks.

For runners, the Apple Watch is a great example of working with what we’ve got, but it’s still problematic. Don’t agree? Try to text someone from your Apple Watch in the middle of your next 5K.

What if you had your whole forearm to adjust the volume of your music, text someone mid-workout, whatever? Problem solved.

(Source: advances.sciencemag.org)

(Source: advances.sciencemag.org)

Light-up Artwork

While the idea of subnormal skin displays may seem crazy at first, once you consider it, the possibilities start to open.

Imagine a body full of such displays, your own customizable light-up tattoo that you can shut off during work hours. Try to do that with the double barbed-wire tattoo you have wrapped around your gunz. Thank god you didn’t get that thing tattooed around your wrist.

What if that same technology could alert medical professionals to allergies or medical conditions, in the event you pass out on the treadmill? That non-wearable artwork could save your life.

(Source: advances.sciencemag.org)

(Source: advances.sciencemag.org)

Health Implications

In addition to the display options, Yokota, and the Someya Group demonstrated how their E-skin could interact with biometrics, giving users up to the moment feedback.

It’s feasible that we could see the end of diabetics needing to prick their fingers as well as an end to heart rate monitors strapped to our chests.

Forget the battle to make the perfect smartwatch wear to the gym and to the office, wear none at all.

(Source: zenspill.com)

(Source: zenspill.com)

So what’s left to solve?

This technology has been in development for some time so this recent development in flexibility is a huge step forward, but it’s a long way off of getting under your skin.

The best models we have today only last for a  few days. With development, however, they expect to stretch this timeframe to weeks, months and so on.

So would you do it? Would you install displays under your skin?