How will you describe a wearable? Implanted? Watch-like? A device around the wrist? Apple? Yes, but they may soon be the past as researchers and engineers from Soft Machines Lab and Morphing Matter Lab of Carnegie Mellon University are co-developing a new form of wearables that can be stick onto our skin just like plasters. Known as ElectroDermis, it is created with a promise to be used for medical, fitness and lifestyle purposes. 

“We envision a future where electronics can be temporarily attached to the body (like bandages or party masks), but in functional and aesthetically pleasing ways,” the researchers wrote in a paper published this April for the CHI (Computer-Human Interactions) Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Glasgow Scotland. 

Overcoming the hardware challenge 

Hardware like electronic components are rigid and inflexible, so encompassing them into an elastic wearable while ensuring its comfort on the wearers, is one of the foremost challenges that researchers in this field face. To add to the test, the Carnegie Mellon researchers will also like to incorporate parts for signal processing, wireless communications, and power into the new wearable. 

To turn imaginations into reality, the guru adopted a multi-layer fabrication process. The designers first fixed electronic chips at specific key points on a flattened 2D surface. These are hardware are joined together using copper electrical wiring circuits in a wavy, serpentine shape to maximize flexibility. The circuit will then be placed within a foam mold, before sandwiching between a thin layer of medical grade skin adhesive and a Spandex-blend fabric substrate.

An overview of ElectroDermis

Highly customizable 

It takes less than an hour to assemble an ElectroDermis patch and each can last for hours and even days on one’s body. As the skin adhesive is replaceable, ElectroDermis is reusable and highly adaptable for different functions. Presently, some of the applications of ElectroDermis cited by researchers include forehead temperature sensing mask, earring for pulse rate detection, smart wound healing bandage and motion tracing knee wrap. 

As such, the Carnegie Mellon researchers believe ElectroDermis is a dynamic option to the present-day wearables. One which values impermanence and more conform to the human body. 

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Hazel Tang

A science writer with data background and an interest in the current affair, culture, and arts; a no-med from an (almost) all-med family. Follow on Twitter.