In recent years, a lot of research has been dedicated to making wearable technology more comfortable. Most of that research has focused on flexible circuits and pushing the boundaries of miniaturization. The idea being that small chips and sensors can be worn more comfortably, require less energy, and are more readily integrated into flexible substrates. But they’re still relatively expensive and require power, which is why this new wearable skin ditches circuits altogether in favor of magnetism.
This magnetic skin was developed by researchers from Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. It’s made by mixing an elastomer matrix with magnetic powder, resulting in a wet paste. That can then be applied to the skin and dried, leaving behind a very thin and flexible film. That film, which is embedded with magnetic powder, can be easily magnetized using conventional methods, such as simply moving a magnet nearby. The magnetic skin is very comfortable, extremely affordable, and can be applied in any shape or color.
Once the magnetic skin has been applied, it can be used to control a variety of devices using a simple magnetic sensor. One, very basic, example would be to apply the magnetic skin to your fingertip. Then you could simply move your finger near the magnetic sensor to trigger some action. That can be enhanced much further with more sophisticated sensors that can track the magnetic fields in order to recognize complex gestures. Because the magnetic skin can be applied anywhere on the body, it could work in conjunction with many kinds of wearable devices. It might even be possible to take advantage of it for medical purposes, such as for tracking sleep quality via eye movements.