No. 93

Skin-On Interfaces

By : Marc Teyssier

Entrant’s location : France



Skin-On Interfaces are Artifical realistic skin for Smartphones. Human skin is the best interface for interaction. I propose this new paradigm in which interactive devices have their own artificial skin, thus enabling new forms of input gestures for end-users.

What did you create?

Skin-On Interfaces are sensitive skin-like input surfaces than can be added to existing devices. This project investigates the relationship between technology and the body, in new ways. First created as a tool for interaction, this project questions physicality and embodiment of devices. Skin-On Interfaces consist of two types of input devices: a smartphone case and a touchpad. They expand the range of possible touch actions that we can perform on a traditional flat input surface, by allowing gestures typically performed on human skin such as pinching or tickling. The first prototypes of Skin-On interfaces helped us understanding the possible interactions and the potential of such interfaces. For example, this interface is well suited to communicate emotions through touch, to someone remotely or a virtual avatar. But these interfaces provide opportunities for new expressive interactions with the computers, such as creating new input elements, like a knob, by pinching and twisting the skin. With that in mind, we developed a second series of prototypes with a human-like skin. These prototypes are more radical, and takes a critical point of view against the impact of smartphones on conviviality and spontaneity of real-life touch communication.

Why did you make it?

Have you ever thought about your relationship with others in real life? It feels so great to be hugged by a friend or to hold their hands. What does technologies offer us to communicate these sensations? Nothing. Smartphones help us maintain contact, by using voice or text messages, but smartphones still has a cold interface that doesn't allow natural interaction and input. Have you ever thought about your relationship with your smartphone? Alone, waiting for the bus, you need to touch it, or to feel it in your pocket. More than a stress reliever, it's a comfort object. More than a comfort object, it's almost as if the phone was your companion. Your phone is clever, has brainpower, and can even anticipate your needs. The only thing needed is its incarnation and embodiment. The transhumanism envision humans as augmented with part machines. On the opposite, this work explores a possible future where devices have part humans, where devices anthropomorphic. They can act as a proxy of someone else, or incarnate their self. Is it a desirable future? Will it allow us to interact differently with our devices? Will it change the affective link we already have with our devices?

How did you make it?

The creation of Skin-On Interfaces is not random, but I followed a bio-driven approach where I took inspiration from the human skin to design the perfect artificial skin. From a sensory point of view, I studied how to reproduce the visual, tactile and kinesthetic aspects of the human skin. I used the silicone to mimic the skin deformability with reference to biology literature. I investigate how the visual factors (colour) and the haptic factors (texture and thickness) impact user experience and the perception of realism. From a gestural point of view, I explored how gestures naturally performed on the skin can be transposed to Skin-On interfaces. I use this knowledge to propose a series of gestures that are desirable for Skin-on interfaces (e.g. multitouch touch, pressure and complex gestures such as strokes, stretching or grabbing). From a sensing point of view, I reproduced a skin sensing layer that can track natural gestures with a spatial acuity comparable to human skin. The creation of technical pieces like this one is often complicated for hobbyists and the DIY community. I wanted this work to be reproducible, so I developed a simple fabrication process and an Open-source and Open-hardware multitouch controller. It enable DIY fabrication of multi-touch interfaces on unconventional surfaces such as human skin. The breakout is composed of a controller which allows for connecting 12 sensing electrodes and 21 transmitting electrodes. Any conductive electrode with an unusual shape or using unusual material can be used for sensing and transmitting. The touch controller can transmit the raw electrodes data or 5 multi-touch coordinates via i2C, to any micro-controller, on a smartphone or a laptop.

Your entry’s specification

The prototypes are phone-sized and touchpad-sized. They are made out of Silicone and uses simple conductive wires and open-source hardware to detect touch.