Wearers won't notice this thin wearable HMI for controlling robots

Scientists at The University of Houston have created a device that is a very thin, wearable electronic device that is a human-machine interface. An HMI is a key bit of tech that allows humans to interface with robots and other electronic devices. The new solution that the team created is so thin and flexible that it's virtually imperceptible to the wearer.

The device that the team created is also multifunctional while allowing the user to move naturally. Scientists Cunjiang Yu says that the device is less noticeable than a bandaid and is only a few microns thick. The device has the potential to work as a prosthetic skin for a robotic hand or other robotic devices. The HMI can automatically collect information and relay it back to the wearer.

Yu also says that the HMI has applications for healthcare. As for healthcare potential, Yu says that it might be able to deduce the physical condition of a patient with a handshake. It could also allow humans to handle materials via robots that are hazardous for humans to handle directly.

The team says that the current level of technology is gaining popularity, but is bulky to wear, slow to respond, and suffers degradation in performance over time. The more flexible HMIs currently available are only able to perform one function at a time, such as sensing, switching, stimulation, and data storage.

The device the team has described in its paper is a metal oxide semiconductor on a polymer base and can be processed at temperatures under 300C in manufacturing. The HMI can capture multiple physical data and offer intelligent feedback forming a closed-loop HMI. The device is a  one-step formed, sol-gel-on-polymer-processed indium zinc oxide semiconductor nanomembrane electronics.