Democratizing the Design of Wearable Computing
Smart watches, augmented-reality headsets, and other forms of wearable computing are expanding how people use and interact with computers, with applications in health care, entertainment, and accessibility. An emerging, next-generation form of wearable computing is on-skin interfaces. Smart tattoos, bandages, and other on-skin interfaces can facilitate access to physiological signals and expand the sensing capabilities of mobile and wearable devices. Progress in this potentially transformative field has been limited, however, by the difficulty of designing and prototyping on-skin interfaces.
With this CAREER award, Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao, Design and Environmental Analysis, is developing tool kits for the design and rapid prototyping of on-skin interfaces. The tool kits will combine traditional crafting methods, unorthodox materials, digital fabrication techniques, and electronics. Researchers will investigate new fabrication processes that blend readily available materials, such as textiles and paper, with emerging slim electronics. This project includes new collaborative programs that will put the tools needed to prototype on-skin interface applications into the hands of young girls, rural-area youth, craftspeople, and other populations that often have limited access to electronics development.
On-skin interfaces hold promise for realizing the vision of a so-called invisible computer that is simple, easy to use, and designed to fit seamlessly in people’s daily lives—for pervasive health care, assisted living for older adults, the future of work, and national defense. This research will bring together scientists, engineers, and artists to invent the future of how people experience on-skin technologies, incorporating diverse perspectives from outside laboratory settings for the design of social interactions, electronic devices, and applications.