I've got you under my skin
I've got you deep in the heart of me
So deep in my heart that you're really a part of me
I've got you under my skin
"Under My Skin," Cole Porter as popularized by Frank Sinatra
Noah Cole is our Senior PR Manager. This past week he traveled to Toronto to visit the Autodesk Research team.
Autodesk Research is part of the Office of the CTO (OCTO). Autodesk Labs is also part of OCTO. Autodesk Research is focused on innovation and discovery in the realm of design technology and was originally part of Alias before acquisition by Autodesk in 2005. The group has grown in recent years to include almost 40 researchers, mostly PhDs and many with strong ties to the University of Toronto. In addition to these 40 researchers, there are a rotating number of PhD students from other universities working at and with the Research team
Noah filed this trip report. With his permission, I decided to share it with It's Alive in the Lab readers.
Implanted user interfaces allow users to interact with small devices through human skin. (a-b) This output device is implanted (c) underneath the skin of a specimen arm. (d) Actual photograph of the LED output through the skin. (e) This standalone prototype senses input from an exposed trackball (f) and illuminates it in response.
Implanted devices have existed for a long time in the medical domain, allowing patients to take advantage of state-of-the-art technology to live a normal life. However, these devices typically require experts to operate, and there is no way for users to interact with them, for example, to check their status. But what if people could directly interact with implants? This could not only radically change the capabilities of medical implants, but could fundamentally change the relationship between people and their interactive devices.
A team of research scientists at Autodesk Research has now investigated this future possibility. In collaboration with research intern Christian Holz, research scientists Tovi Grossman and George Fitzmaurice explored how people could directly interact with very small devices when they are implanted under skin.
The team created a number of small hardware prototypes to examine input and output through skin. The prototypes included components capable of sensing touch, pressure, and hovering gestures above the skin. A microphone was used to test the feasibility of audio input. The prototypes also included LED light output, a speaker for audio output, and haptic output through vibration. The team also tested how well Bluetooth communication and inductive charging would work through skin. In addition to testing fully implanted devices, the group also introduced the idea of implanted devices with “exposed components,” such as a light or trackball, protruding from the skin.
In collaboration with Prof. Anne Agur from the Department of Anatomy at the University of Toronto, the researchers performed a technical evaluation of these components implanted under the skin of a specimen arm. They systematically determined the extent to which the components of their prototypes worked through skin. For example, the study demonstrates thresholds for which light can be seen through skin, and for which audio can be heard. The observations and measurements show that all components remain functional when implanted under skin, including Bluetooth communication and wireless inductive charging.
Technology, and the way we use it, continues to evolve at an incredible pace. As a software company, Autodesk has a vested interest in what the future may hold for how we interact with technology. While we should not expect to see this type of research guiding product development any time soon, we might imagine a future where people can interact with electronic devices that are permanent components of their body. This work takes a first step towards understanding how exactly this might be accomplished, and begins to ask and answer some of the important technical, human factors, and medical questions.
The work will be published at the CHI 2012 ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. The full paper, and additional details, can be obtained from publications page of the Autodesk Research Website.
Thanks Noah. This really is technology that can get under your skin.
Implantation is alive in the Lab.