Smartphones allow users to access the internet easily from any location globally, but there may be an even easier way — the body internet.
That’s what researchers at Purdue University are developing. Instead of a screen or even voice commands, users would use their skin or even mind control. The development would allow using a finger to make a payment instead of a credit card or smartphone. Users could access a GPS route with their feet or transfer a file to someone by shaking their hand.
While many of these ideas are decades off, Purdue is working to turn some of the ideas into reality today, like allowing a user to access a local internet connection in devices stored within their bodies, like a pacemaker.
“Right now, our gateway to the internet is this very exciting box in our hands,” said Shreyas Sen, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue University. “We find ourselves heads down looking at it for a significant fraction of our awake time. If that’s not the kind of the future we want, then technology needs to evolve. Instead, the smartphone could be deconstructed and distributed all around you at suitable locations such that it becomes invisible to the eye.”
Purdue has invented two ways for humans to collaborate directly with the internet.
First, Wi-R, which establishes internet inside the body that can communicate with smartphones, laptops, smartwatches, insulin pumps and other wearables or implanted devices. Touch can also be used for the internet and would allow a photo to be sent to someone simply by a poke.
The second invention is a brain implant that in a few decades could allow humans to control the internet through their thoughts. The implant would allow the human body to transfer data fast enough so any device would need to be in direct or close contact with a person’s skin to do what the person wants a device to do.
The skin would then act as an interface of an internet network instead of a screen, establishing a “body internet.”
And while this may seem far off, Purdue has already demonstrated how Wi-R is used to enable humans to digitally communicate strictly through touch. Specifically, researchers demonstrated how to use Wi-R to transfer music through a body and have it play out loud from another device like a speaker. Researchers also show how to transfer the music to someone else by touching their skin.
How it works
Wi-R technology uses electric signals that operate at a much lower frequency than Bluetooth or other radio signals that currently are used to connect smart devices.
The Wi-R chip uses electro-quasistatic signals — low frequency signals on the electromagnetic spectrum — to allow the device to transfer data faster than Bluetooth but through the skin.
The full research can be found in the journal Nature Electronics.