Strapping a Fitbit to your wrist doesn’t make you a cyborg anymore than dropping a smartphone into your pocket. This year’s emerging technology for wearables, however, can take you one step closer to becoming a human-machine hybrid.
Human Skin Makes a Terrific Interface
In 2016, researchers at the University of California San Diego created a flexible wearable sensor that measures the amount of alcohol in a person’s blood. The invention, which was developed for law enforcement and hospitals, uses a temporary tattoo and circuit board that can accurately measure blood alcohol levels from sweat. Instead of having people blow into a breathalyzer, cops could put the temporary tattoo on your skin and transmit the data to a mobile device.
Getting pulled over while intoxicated will make most people sweat. Even if you stay perfectly calm, the device can still measure your blood alcohol level because the temporary tattoo contains a small dose of pilocarpine, which induces sweat.
The Future is Summer 2017
BACtrack, a company that makes portable breathalyzers that connect to smartphones, has created similar technology for the consumer marketplace. The BACtrack Skyn continuously measures your blood alcohol level in real-time so you can see how inebriated you become while you drink.
Like the device from UC San Diego, BACtrack Skyn measures chemicals on your skin to determine how much alcohol you have in your system. The wearable will come as an independent wristband and an Apple Watch strap. BACtrack hopes to release the device this summer.
Products like BACtrack Skyn have a lot of uses. Consumers can use them to see how much they’re affected by the alcohol they drink. Since the device works in real-time, you can watch your blood alcohol level increase as you imbibe. BACtrack Skyn can also predict how long it will take to reach sobriety, which is a useful way to determine when you should stop drinking so you can drive home safely.
Doctors can also use BACtrack Skyn to confirm reported alcohol use among patients. Breathalyzers are reliable, but doctors can’t administer the tests throughout the day. BACtrack Skyn solves that problem and gives doctors insight into how their patients behave.
NewRealDesign Wants to Make You a Full-Time Cyborg
Wearables that use your skin as an interface can turn you into a temporary cyborg. NewRealDesign, the company that has made Fitbit devices and other wearables, wants to make the cyborg condition a little more permanent by implanting tattoos under your skin.
Project Underskin would implant a small tattoo just under the surface of your hand’s skin. According to the company’s plans, the device would use your body’s energy to power itself.
Underskin might sound a bit frightening to fans of dystopian sci-fi, but it has a lot of good uses. Using NFC, for instance, it could unlock your home’s door and make sure that only you get to use your credit card.
You may picture RoboCop when you think of cyborgs, but the reality is that cyborg technology won’t change how humans look. Instead, it will appear as invisible tech that gives people more information and control over their lives.
Image via Flickr by raruschel