A Japanese scientist developed bionic skin that can replace most of today's diagnostic tools and procedures. The artificial skin can detect tumors and predict heart attacks, transcending the function of the organ it simulates.
University of Tokyo scientist Takao Someya has invented electronic skin with superhuman sensitivity. Depending on the application, the technology has vast potential, from monitoring heart rate to detecting the presence of tumors.
Dynamic, Lightweight, Durable
The bionic skin can relay information about the body's condition and function. It can pre-empt infection with early detection and notification, and can even determine the nature and cause of diseases. The technology has exciting applications in medicine, since the device can fulfil all of these without the need for invasive procedures.
CNN reports the material used to build the bionic skin is as light as a feather and almost indestructible. Gloves made out of the "fabric" can be used to detect tumors hidden in the breast, reducing the need for other diagnostic scans. Embedded on the body or on clothing, the technology can monitor vital signs and prevent stroke or heart attacks.
The technology initially enabled robots to detect human emotion through a handshake. Research started in 2001 and the concept was then considered future tech.
Someya recalls the difficulty to muster support for development: "In the early 2000s, when I started out, flexible electronics were getting popular, but most people were trying to develop e-paper. I wanted to do something outside the mainstream."
The initial materials used to build the bionic skin were crude and cumbersome, until Someya considered flexible and organic alternatives like dinaphtho thieno thiophene, which is the material used in bank note security strips. Flexibility was improved and the thickness of the material was reduced to one micrometer, a tenth of the thickness of plastic wrap.
Someya said the goal is to integrate technology in all aspects of human affairs. "The ultimate goal, our dream, is to harmonize humans and robots by making full use of soft electronics," he said in a Digital Trends report, so that "humans get closer to robots and robots get closer to humans."