Researchers have managed to communicate 3D printed objects without the use of batteries or electronics. These objects could for example control prostheses or pilluliers connected by using the ambient wifi signals.
An ingenious and useful project
Last year, this team of researchers at the University of Washington demonstrated that their system could measure wind speed and fluid flow.
This new project is far more ambitious: making assistive technology accessible to everyone by allowing anyone to build connected devices using a commercially available 3D printer.
Before getting results, researchers had to solve two problems: complex motion control and data storage.
If the system was already able to perform simple measurements such as controlling the amount of liquid introduced into a bottle, they also had to detect whether the bottle was open or closed. They solved this problem by incorporating two antennas into the objects, providing an open / closed binary signal.
Regarding data storage, they needed a system that could work without a Wi-Fi connection. A mechanical solution has been found: a spring actuating a pawl that once released provides a signal to the antenna when a connection is available. In this way, the prosthesis is able to provide an analog signal which will then be converted into a digital signal.
The research team does not intend to stop there. They now want to miniaturize their prototype in order to adapt it to pillboxes, prostheses and insulin pens. The results of their work will be presented this month at the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology.