Stretchable electronics extend human capabilities

An article I wrote for Electronic Products.

MC10 reshapes high performance electronics into human compatible form factors that stretch, bend and twist seamlessly with our bodies

Recently Electronic Products spoke with  MC10, a fairly new company that develops high-performance stretchable electronics. The idea behind MC10 is to get people to stop conforming to electronics, and instead have electronics conform to people. These electronics are flexible devices that can stretch, bend and twist seamlessly with human bodies and are virtually invisible, conformal and wearable.

 Worrell Circuit 

The MC10 Biostamp is a smart sensing sticker, worn like a kid’s fake tattoo, that measures biopotential (ECG, EEG, EMG), strain and temperature, with power provided and data extracted wirelessly. The device is non-functional but gives insight into the future of MC10 technology. Credit: MC10 Inc.

Electronic Products: What is the importance of using electronics that can stretch and bend with the human body?

MC10: MC10’s devices open the door to a multitude of applications that just can’t be explored with traditional rigid and boxy electronics. Because the technology is so conformal, it can sit directly on the skin to gather better, richer data for longer periods of time without discomfort or distraction. Athletes have access to more action-oriented data from a device that does not negatively influence their performance. Gentle sensors on patients can help close the feedback loop after a procedure to allow the doctor to monitor patients in the comfort of their own home. MC10’s virtually invisible, skin-mounted sensors can reach new patient populations who may not tolerate wires or bulky devices.

EP: What kinds of technologies are available from MC10?

MC10: In July of 2013 MC10 launched our first product, the Reebok CHECKLIGHT, a head impact indicator to warn athletes, coaches and parents to a potentially serious head impact. We are expecting to launch our first skin-mounted sensors in 2014.

EP: Who uses your technology?

MC10: MC10’s vision for the future is that our technology will become ubiquitous in a variety of industries. We are developing sensors for athletes to help them extend their performance abilities while minimizing the risk of injury. We are working with the digital health community to develop sensors that improve remote monitoring. Doctors will use MC10’s medical device technology to gain access to information never before available in the operating room. MC10 technology will not be tethered to just one user group, and instead will become woven into everyday activities to advance the quality of life.

Checklight Reebok MC10
The Reebok CHECKLIGHT is a revolutionary head impact indicator. Credit: Reebok.

EP: Which is your most popular technology and why is that? 

MC10: The vision of MC10’s seamless sensing technology becoming mainstream has generated a significant amount of buzz within the industry. Consumers, athletes, and patients are looking forward to the day when electronics conform to the human body, and data retrieved is actionable and relevant.

EP: How is the technology at MC10 created?

MC10: MC10’s proprietary techniques adapt conventional electronic devices with novel mechanics to enable new generations of thin and conformal electronic systems. Our devices incorporate silicon devices thinned to a fraction of the width of a human hair. These chips, combined with stretchable metallic interconnects, are combined with elastic rubberlike polymers to form complete powered systems that sense, measure, and communicate information.

EP: How much do technologies from MC10 cost?

MC10: MC10 technology will be competitively priced to other devices on the market. The Reebok CHECKLIGHT is priced at $150 and can be worn year round in contact sports with or without a helmet.

EP:What is MC10’s biggest accomplishment?

MC10: MC10’s first commercial product has been named a CES Innovations 2014 Design and Engineering Award Honoree. The Reebok CHECKLIGHT was the top choice among all other health and fitness category nominations.

EP: What does the future look like for MC10?

MC10: Our vision for the future is that seamless sensing will become a part of everyday life. In the same way that the Internet has made communications connectivity a seamless part of our lives, universal physiological sensing is an inevitable part of our future. We look at MC10’s role in this revolution as the way that sensing systems can truly reach the mainstream. Just as the World Wide Web made the Internet accessible to all by eliminating the need for technical know-how, MC10 is working to make the technology “invisible” to users, so that their interaction is with the data, and more importantly, the insights– rather than the hardware.

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