Had enough of your regular smartphone protective case? Soon, you might be able to go full David Cronenberg body horror and get your hands on one that looks like it’s fashioned out of human skin.
Okay, so that gross description of the work of researchers at Telecom Paris is only partially accurate. Yes, it’s a design that is going to freak out a few people. However, there’s also some pretty nifty tech involved. Here’s what it can do.
“I wanted to [be able to] pinch my phone,” Marc Teyssier at Telecom Paris told New Scientist. That impulse resulted in the team developing a pair of prototypes: one with realistically textured skin, and the other with a more uniform surface.
The artificial skin boasts three layers in a sandwich-like structure. There is a layer of silicone, followed by a layer of stretchable copper wire, followed by another layer of silicone. The result is a smartphone casing that can recognize touch gestures such as sliding and stretching.
“The constraint was to develop something that was stretchable and that can also detect touch,” Teyssier continued.
Human skin offers new types of interaction
The reason for doing this was to figure out a way to create new inputs for smart devices. This way, users could react to their smartphones not just by swiping the screen, but by squeezing or caressing the device itself. The New Scientist article notes that:
“The skin … responds to different gestures that mimic human emotional communication. The artificial skin is programmed to associate different gestures with certain emotions. Sudden hard pressure on the skin is associated with anger and tapping is a means of seeking attention, while sustained contact and stroking are associated with providing comfort.”
The team also developed a smart watch and touchpad to demonstrate how the skin works. In the future, they’re planning to make it even creepier by adding things like embedded hair and temperature features.
There’s no announcement of any commercialization just yet, though. Maybe keep checking Kickstarter.