Smart skin and X-ray Wi-Fi will connected-self future
I really would like my dog to do my groceries for me,” says Brian Subirana. Sitting in the press room at Web Summit 2016, our chat probably isn’t even the most far-fetched conversation in there. This friend to dogs spent his time as the director of the automatic identification laboratory at the Massachusetts institute of technology, the concept of Internet of things began in 1999 – think about what is possible, what is close to, what is “far, far away”.
Subirana uses a framework to look at the question in terms of the information frontier (processing, storage, network), the matter frontier (breathable, high resolution management, legal) and the life frontier (sensing, human interface and artificial life). Here’s what’s coming down the pipe.
This is an obvious problem, when it comes to a man who see cutting-edge technology first, full every day, but I asked for it. What is a Subirana at the Massachusetts institute of technology, or other place to see is the most exciting and unexpected?
“The smart skin we’re doing in the lab is pretty unbelievable,” he says. “We’re working on humidity sensing and we have these paints that you can paint on your skin. Depending on the humidity, the material responds differently, like whether you’re tired.” I mention the trend for stick-on wearables that can measure health metrics and read facial expressions. L’Oréal’s My UV patch [as seen in the top picture] and MIT’s DuoSkin project with Microsoft Research also spring to mind.
“The next level of the stick-on is that you paint it on,” Subirana counters. The lab’s prototypes could eventually transform the beauty industry (and, I guess, make someone a boat load of money in the process). “Hopefully cosmetics will tell you when you need to put more or less cosmetics because of the humidity of the skin,” he explains. “You could, for example, apply a regular cream then you have a stamp and the impurities you’ve created with the stamp are enough to measure the difference.”
Auto – ID laboratory prototype of such technology is still very early – at the moment it is composed of a fixed copper coating. In addition to explore how to learn more about our body, another problem, the scientists and researchers at the Massachusetts institute of technology is how to identify the body of smart home at night.
“It’s not me in particular that’s working on it but MIT is doing some amazing work in Wi-Fi sensing,” says Subirana. A couple of years ago, research into seeing through walls with Wi-Fi was announced – as our bodies reflect the signal – and it’s still being investigated. As our smart homes get smarter, tracking us could be one of the last pieces of the puzzle.
“We now have the digital signal processing (DSP) algorithm, can adopt the wi-fi signal, tell you who you are on the other side of the wall,” he said. “You can find their heart or breathing, where they are, no matter they raise their arms, if they are moving. The same digital signal processing (DSP) allows you to uniquely identify the chip (i.e., in the smart home devices).”
He thinks that, in the next five years, we in the smart home breakthrough time is what? But now, our limited: “equipment, mobile phone or watch is impossible to know how you are approaching a coffee machine. For this influence is quite huge AI intelligent household interaction not only between themselves, and with the human, it aims to help.
Robo waiters and delivery dogs
Moving further into the realm of what’s possible, there are a couple of particular challenges of interest to MIT’s various labs and staff that affect both the inside of the smart home and business logistics. The first is the “Amazon challenge” of building robots that can grasp and grab objects – from a shelf in an Amazon warehouse, for instance, but also “an arbitrary object from the supermarket and putting it onto a cart or picking up a key and putting it into a door. We’re a long, long way from opening the door.” Or even better, “imagine if a robot can go pick up a cup of coffee and give it to you like waiters.” Cut to slide of the flabby hovering humans in Pixar’s Wall-E.
And for fans of pet wearables, geo-fencing could in theory turn your dog into a delivery collection pooch. Subirana likes to illustrate how he views progress and obstacles for the Internet of Things with this genius example: “You have a standard pet wearable so that they can walk through different neighbourhoods,” he says. “Each neighbourhood would have its own policy for walk-along dogs, each dog would have its own certificate. They will be much more healthy and they will be able to go and visit your Grandma if she’s alone.”
There is a lot more. “Dogs are last mile logistics of ecology, this is a major problem.. You can take a bag, you want to send to a friend, you can put it there, maybe a dog will pick it, put it in a post office, you can imagine a dog waiting for Uber stopped, will automatically open the suitcase, throw the parcel, drive away, I think the taxi can use their empty luggage space .”
Let us back to reality, Auto – ID lab director, said technologies, such as enhanced (or mixed) reality and bluetooth – is pretty ubiquitous in Web summit this year, there is still a way.
“I was a bit disappointed with Facebook’s CTO. He said [at the conference] ‘This is the year of augmented reality’. It’s one of those things that big companies say but they don’t provide any evidence,” says Subirana. “What we’re doing is we have some research projects on shopping. So we think that if you go into the grocery store and you have glasses that help you shop, maybe that’s a use case. So we’re working hard on that, there may be something there.”
Movement, of course, but he is less than 100% sales: “augmented reality may be in the stadium is good, when messi out a free throw – you can put on your goggles, become the goalkeeper and Lionel messi, maybe, maybe, maybe…” As for bluetooth, “they need to take out the bluetooth 10.0,” he said, “they need to improve security and automatic connection, even if you connect to your car, this is very painful.”
If you feared the Internet of Things is reaching a plateau, it seems there’s no need to fret. A couple more throwaway ideas to leave you with: an Amazon Dash-style smart home camera for instant ordering, and connected dogs fighting Zika by dispersing artificially grown mosquitoes.