Nowadays, many of us expect to use a protective case on our phones without the expectation that it will give us nightmares. However, a team of researchers at the Bristol Interaction Group wanted to change that with the creation of a phone case that's designed to look and feel like human skin.
Called Skin-On Interfaces, the technology was developed by a group of researchers in Bristol, include Marc Teyssier, who detailed the creation process and usability purposes of the product (via BBC). The interfaces are touch-sensitive and could enable new ways to interact with devices, according to Teyssier. Not only are they sensitive to touch input, but they can also detect levels of pressure and gestures such as stretching the skin or pinching it. This could be used as a way to express emotions, such as tickling the skin to create a laughing expression or pinching it to generate an angry one.
Skin-On Interfaces can be used in a multitude of products, including phone cases, which would enable phone interaction using the rear and sides of the device, as seen in the video above. It could also be used as a replacement for a trackpad on a laptop, or replace the usual smartwatch straps to allow for additional input methods. They come in two models: a simple one with a flat color, or an ultra-realistic one.
Teyssier justified the project saying:
"When we interact with others, we use skin as interfaces. However the objects of mediated communication - such as the smartphone - still has a cold interface that doesn't allow natural interaction and input.
In this project, I wanted to make available the perfect human interface that is the skin for existing devices."
Strange as it may be, the technology used to create Skin-On interfaces is open-source and the controller used for the touch input can also be obtained from Teyssier for those interested in developing interaction methods based on it. It doesn't seem very likely that this kind of technology will make it to products you can actually buy, but it does open some interesting possibilities.