Researchers develop NFC on-skin electronics

DuoSkin Device
TOUCHING BREAKTHROUGH: Gold leaf device offers three types of on-skin interface

A group of students from MIT Media Lab have teamed up with Microsoft Research to develop interactive and customizable on-skin electronics equipped with an NFC chip for transferring information to a mobile device.

As well as wireless communication, the DuoSkin devices will allow the wearer to make touch inputs – such as controlling a music player – with a stroke of the finger, the researchers explain.

“DuoSkin is a fabrication process that enables anyone to create customized functional devices that can be attached directly on their skin,” they say.

“Using gold metal leaf, a material that is cheap, skin-friendly and robust for everyday wear, we demonstrate three types of on-skin interfaces — sensing touch input, displaying output and wireless communication. DuoSkin devices communicate using NFC, whose tags comprise a chip that connects to a coil. We fabricate this coil using gold leaf, customized to various shapes and sizes.

“Using DuoSkin, we created on-skin input elements that resemble traditional user interfaces, such as buttons, sliders and 2D trackpads. DuoSkin brings soft displays onto the skin, enabled through the ink-like qualities of thermochromic pigments.”

Body temperature

“These displays have two different states and color change is triggered when heated beyond body temperature,” the researchers add. “Displays can also be separated into designated parts. To activate color changes on our displays, we fabricate heating elements underneath the thermochromic layer.”

A video shows the technology in action:

“We believe that, in the future, on-skin electronics will no longer be black-boxed and mystified,” the researchers conclude. “Instead, they will converge towards the user friendliness, extensibility and aesthetics of body decorations, forming a DuoSkin integrated to the extent that it has seemingly disappeared.”

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