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Your Puny Smart Watch Is No Match for My Electronic Skin

Who needs a clunky ol’ watch when you could just incorporate tech into your biggest organ?

Y’know, all those weird conspiracy theories about COVID-19 vaccines and microchips could maybe carry some weight if it weren’t for the fact that most of us consensually carry around a data-tracking microchip as it is. Not only do our iPhones probably log every place we go, every keystroke we make and maybe even the words we speak around them, but plenty of us have also jumped on the smart watch train to keep tabs on the nuances of our bodily functions, as well. If Big Tech or the government wanted to use our information to control us, we’d probably willingly hand it right over so long as they gave us something with an Apple logo in exchange. 

Case in point: Researchers in the field of wearable technology have recently developed something called “electronic skin,” a “stretchy and fully-recyclable circuit board that’s inspired by, and sticks onto, human skin,” according to a press release from the University of Colorado, Boulder

Design and schematic illustration of highly stretchable, self-healable, and recyclable multifunctional wearable electronics.

In a paper published in Science Advances in early November, study authors explain e-skin as performing many of the same functions as a smartwatch or other wearable devices, such as monitoring body temperature or counting steps per day. The supposed advantage, though, is that e-skin functions like skin. Not only can it be placed anywhere on the body, stretching and conforming to its location, but it also apparently heals itself. That would all be kind of cool, if it weren’t so goddamn terrifying. 

The product is made with a network of liquid wires held between two films of a material called polyimine. Polyimine is responsible for the “skin-like” quality of e-skin — as one of the study’s lead authors, Wei Zhang, stated in the press release, polyimine will bind itself back together when pinched after breaking. 

One less-scary benefit of electronic skin is that it should be fully recyclable. The polyimine can be separated from the electronic components in a recycling solution, and both can then be reused. 

Right now, electronic skin is still in its early stages of development, so it’s going to be a while before something like this hits the market. Nevertheless, it’s just another step in the process of everyone becoming full-blown cyborgs, incorporating constant surveillance into our very organs. God knows, people will buy it!