The Chemical and Engineering Journal recently published an expose about a subject straight out of science fiction novels: electronic skin.
A team at the University of Illinois has produced what they call “epidermal electronics,” postage stamp-sized temporary tattoos riddled with silicon and gallium arsenide nanomembranes. This makes no sense to me either, but the coolness of the project is undeniable.
John A. Rogers, the professor in charge of the research, describes it in simpler terms. The new skin is essentially a “spider web mesh of electronics” with limitless potential to revolutionize life as we know it. The patch can monitor any activity within the wearer’s body, transmit voice commands electronically to a remote receptor, and potentially even control the wearer. Repeat: a remote could control the wearer.
This brings up the frightening, if far-off, possibility of a select few people or autonomous machines rising to violent dominion over all of mankind (see the Matrix 1, 2 and 3). Yes, the science is amazing…but so is the human capacity for evil. Electronic skin technology opens up whole new avenues for dastardly deeds like mind control and manipulation. I am forcibly reminded of J.K. Rowling’s Imperius Curse.
Of course, the potential for these half-electric-half-biological tats to heal diseases and save lives also knows no bounds. It’s my guess that one day electronic skin will be available at every hospital…and maybe even that skanky tattoo parlor down the street.
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