When we lose a limb, the brain is really none the wiser. It continues to send signals out, but since they no longer have a destination, the person is stuck with one-way communication and a phantom-limb feeling. The fact that the brain carries on has always been promising as far as prostheses are concerned, because it means the electrical signals could potentially be used to control new limbs and digits the natural way.
Like real skin, the e-dermis has an outer, epidermal layer and an inner, dermal layer. Both layers use conductive and piezoresistive textiles to transmit information about tangible objects back to the peripheral nerves in the limb. E-dermis does this non-invasively through the skin using transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, better known as TENS. Here’s a link to the full article published in Science Robotics.
First, the researchers made a neuromorphic model of all the nerves and receptors that relay signals to the nervous system. To test the e-dermis, they used 3-D printed objects designed to be grasped between thumb and forefinger, and monitored the subject’s brain activity via EEG.
For now, the e-dermis is confined to the fingertips. Ideally, it would cover the entire prosthesis and be able to detect temperature as well as curvature. Stay tuned, because it’s next on their list.
Google’s Project Jacquard is tackling the age old gap between controlling your electronic device and touching yourself. They are doing this by weaving conductive thread into clothing in the form of a touch pad. In partnership with Levi Strauss & Co., Google has been designing and producing touch interfaces that are meant to be used by developers however they see fit.
The approach that Project Jacquard has taken from a hardware standpoint is on point. Rather than having an end user product in mind and design completely towards that goal, the project is focused on the interface as its product. This has the added benefit of endless varieties of textile interface possibilities. As stated in the video embedded after the break, the conductive touch interface can be designed as a visibly noticeable difference in material or seamlessly woven into a garment.
As awesome as this new interface may seem there are some things to consider:
Can an unintentional brush with another person “sleeve dial” your boss or mother-in-law?
What are the implications of Google putting sensors in your jeans?
At what point is haptic feedback inappropriate? and do we have to pay extra for that?
Looking for a fun wearable electronics project? While you can buy specific fabric and conductive thread for your projects, sometimes you can even find conductive fabric where you might not expect it!
In this latest video by Adafruit, [Becky Stern] goes undercover at a fabrics store with her trusty multimeter to find some new material that can be used for electronics projects! While pickings are slim, she made some useful discoveries — most metallic fabrics aren’t conductive, but some are — You’ll definitely need to take your multimeter with you.
Another funny quirk is that some fabrics are only conductive in one direction! Which could make for a really cool project that seemingly defies conventional wiring — or you can sew a conductive thread perpendicular to the continuity to connect it all together.