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Richie Etwaru Headshot

An Invisible Computer? Researchers Prototype Invisible Computer Around Hair and Eyes!

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Have you heard of Salvatore Giovanni and Munzenrieder Niko? If you have we should be friends, if you have not but are now guessing -- no they are not fashion designers showcased at the recent Golden Globes.

These guys and their team are much cooler. They are scientists creating flexible, ultra-thin, and transparent electronics that can be worn on the skin. Yep, you read that correctly.

Written up in Science Daily, and Nature Communications is the report of the research suggesting that extremely small, thin and transparent chips can be strung together by transparent "membrane" making computers, invisible computers. These electronic components can then adhere to many things, including skin! "These new thin-film transistors adhere to a wide range of surfaces and adapt perfectly," explains the physicist here.

To test the innovation out, the scientists tested wrapping this new invisible electronic component onto a contact lens (on an artificial eye for now) and have successfully observed the transparent, virtually invisible component operate completely mutated onto the contact lens. There are a few flies in the ointment still, these invisible microcomputers require power (albeit very small power) but power nonetheless. Imaging charging your contact lenses?

Salvatore Giovanni, Munzenrieder Niko and team also successfully wrapped the microcomputers around a single human hair, demonstrating that it is thin, flexible and, again, transparent.

What excites me about this is the application in health. Science Daily writes:

The aim is to weave these types of components into textiles, or apply them to the skin in order to make objects "smart," or develop unobtrusive, comfortable sensors that can monitor various functions of the body.

Below is a short list (there are hundreds) of the top obtrusive wearables according to FindTheBest.com (I have no affiliation).

Now before we start to think about how this can be used for role play electronic gaming, immersion into the business or sports world, or worse, thinking about those who cannot wait to wear an invisible computer in the adult entertainment industry -- let's think about some more realistic, and potentially well intended applications.

As reported on Harvard Health Publications and several other outlets, heart attacks can be detected early and hence avoided. However the "detection devices" are cumbersome, some are at home, and take a single point in time measure, and some are wearable, creating streaming health information; but, all are, for the most part, clunky, and many times obtrusive. What if the early heart attack sensor of the future was a small, ultra-thin, flexible and transparent patch you wear on your chest?

Too futuristic? Tell that to Salvatore Giovanni, Munzenrieder Niko and team!

Innovations into microcomputers, such as these, that are thin, flexible and transparent, can be the breakthrough we need to finally wear technology sustainably over time. After all, let us face it, while hundreds (if not thousands) of wearable devices get created, we will only wear a few of these over a sustainable length of time. Now if they were flexible, ultra-thin and invisible, that is a completely different value proposition.

That would be in unobtrusive value proposition.

Here are the questions; answer in comments, or when sharing:
  1. How many "devices" do you wear today?
  2. Does invisible technology scare you?
  3. And, for bonus points, how would we charge them?

Keep the comments critical. Keep the conversation alive, and thank you for reading.

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