WTF?! Have you ever looked at your phone and thought: “Yeah, it’s good. But encasing it in artificial skin to create a David Cronenberg-style mix of flesh and machine would be even better.” Probably not, but researchers have designed a technology that does exactly that.
Gizmodo reports that Marc Teyssier and his team at Telecom Paris designed the disturbing phone case tech, which is called Skin-on Interfaces. “When we interact with others, we use skin as interfaces. However the objects of mediated communication - such as the smartphone - still has a cold interface that doesn't allow natural interaction and input,” writes Teyssier. “In this project, I wanted to make available the perfect human interface that is the skin for existing devices.”
Two prototypes were created using the Skin-on interfaces: “simple” and “ultrarealistic.” They’re able to detect and recognize gestures such as tickling, poking, stretching, grabbing, and pinching. Additionally, these gestures can be associated with various emotions, so a light tap lets the phone know you want its attention, while squeezing it tightly indicates you’re angry. One of its potential uses is “tactile communication with a virtual avatar,” which sounds like a creepy next step in human-machine relationships.
The skin is created using two silicon layers called the epidermis and hypodermis that are dipped in pigment and molded to resemble human skin. Between them sits an electrode layer made up of stretchable conductive yarn, which act as sensors.
The team showed how the technology can also be used on laptop touchpads and smartwatches. The next step is to make the skin even more realistic by adding hair, temperature features, sweat, and goosebumps.
Teyssier said he started the project “to propose a possible future with anthropomorphic devices.” This isn’t the researcher’s first foray into nightmarish smartphone tech; he was also behind the robot finger attachment that drags around your handset and caresses your writs.