Over the past couple of weeks, the internet has been buzzing with talk of a wireless semiconductor skin sticker that monitors heart beats, muscle contractions and – you guessed it – brain waves. Heck, we’ve even Tweeted about it. But lately, our team here at InteraXon has been chatting more and more about this thinner-than-thin “tattoo” interface, meditating on the doors it could open for BCI applications. Why? It’s unobtrusive. If a similar concept is applied to BCI, it could mean huge leaps in user comfort.
Developed by the highly creative researchers at the University of Illinois (alongside their other colleagues in the US, Singapore, and China) the “Epidermal Electronics” patch houses a maze of ribbon-like circuitry including a tiny EEG setup. Like a temporary tattoo, it rubs onto the skin with water. What’s really cool here is the fact that the patch moves with the natural bends and wrinkles of the skin. It’s visible, but it puts no physical weight on the user. This is key when considering the device’s potential applications to the health sciences – specifically patient monitoring. But along with this, the tattoo represents another step towards the miniaturization of BCI hardware.
This week, we reached out to Professor John A. Rogers to talk a bit about time lines. “This is our first paper on this technology,” he admits in a friendly e-mail. “In that sense, it is still early days. If funding streams can be identified to support joint work, then we can provide devices to interested potential collaborators.” That means it will probably be a matter of years before a BCI applications lab like InteraXon can start to play with this kind of technology. But that’s no reason not to get excited. Commercialization, Rogers expects, will happen through a well funded start-up company called mc10, founded a couple of years ago by the U of I team. “I hope that they will be able to turn their attention to EEG related systems in the next year or two,” he adds. And we hope so too. This certainly suggests that some cool new approaches to BCI are on the horizon.
To read the original paper, click here.