SkinKit wearable sensing interface on woman’s neck. (Credit: Hybrid Body Lab)

The next generation of wearable computing technology — for health and wellness, social interaction, and myriad other applications — will be even closer to the wearer than a watch or glasses: It will be affixed to the skin. The SkinKit wearable sensing interface, developed in the Hybrid Body Lab at Cornell University, is a reliable, skin-tight interface that’s easy to attach and detach, and can be used for a variety of purposes, including health monitoring.

On-skin interfaces — sometimes known as “smart tattoos” — have the potential to outperform the sensing capabilities of current wearable technologies, but combining comfort and durability has proven challenging.

Fabrication is done with temporary tattoo paper, silicone textile stabilizer and water, creating a multi-layer thin film structure the group calls “skin cloth.” The layered material can be cut into desired shapes — for their study, the researchers used three-quarter-inch squares, with male-female cutting lines so the pieces can be tessellated (joined together) — and fitted with miniaturized flexible printed circuit board modules to perform a range of tasks.