People carry around their smartphones everywhere, which, in effect, make the gadgets more or less an appendage of their bodies. Considering that, it kind of makes sense that researchers would want to look into the possibility of covering up phones and other mobile devices with a layer of fake human skin. If interfacing with skin-on-skin contact between humans works so well, why not try to apply the same method to phones? Even if it is way beyond creepy.
While some of these input gestures don’t seem to require the silicone-flesh interface in order to be executed—like stroking and tapping—there are some interactive commands here that seem completely novel and unique to the fleshy cover. For example, you can actually pinch or poke these covers (as opposed to just pinch-zooming or pressing on regular smartphones), which allows for more degrees of freedom. In other words, it seems like this kind of cover allows users to manipulate the z axis (“up” and “down” relative to the phone’s screen) rather than just the x and y axes.
Teyssier’s video (above), shows off some of the uses for those extra degrees of freedom, including: a depth-sensitive touchpad; finger inputs applied through the backs of phones; tactile communication, which is used in conjunction with an avatar in the video, but would presumably be good for people talking online, and even the option to tickle. And even though the range of possibilities for a tickling input seems extraordinarily limited, maybe Siri will be requesting it at some point, so it could be good to have.
Teyssier and the other researchers aren’t messing around with their mission of making a very realistic skin either. Like real flesh, the fake-flesh cover has multiple layers, although instead of an epidermis, a dermis, and a hypodermis, it has a layer for input gestures, a visual and tactile layer, a sensing layer, and a kinesthetic layer.
It’s obviously too early to say if there’s a market for this kind of phone cover (apart from the thousand Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs would order), but it’s an interesting avenue of exploration for human-to-gadget interfaces. Plus, there’s the non-realistic version, which is just as versatile and infinitely less creepy.
What do you think of this faux flesh phone cover? Would you ever buy one of these or does the mere sight of it make you want to moisturize endlessly? Let us know in the comments!
Header Image: Marc Teyssier