Imagine communicating your deepest emotions without having to say a word. Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) are headed that way with their wearable goose-bump sensor, which they describe in a recent issue of Applied Physics Letters.
Goose bumps arise when the muscles at the base of hair follicles are flexed, which happens when we are cold or when we feel a strong emotion such as fear, pleasure or nostalgia.
The ultrathin goose-bump sensor is made of nine pinhead-sized capacitors sandwiched between two silicone rubber layers. Each capacitor is a flat spiral made from two charged wires. A goose bump pushes the coil upward, stretching apart the wires and reducing the charge between them. “It's comparable to wearing a thin Band-Aid,” says Young-Ho Cho, senior author and director of the NanoSentuating Systems Laboratory at KAIST in South Korea.
The invention has sparked new collaboration. Cho is talking with researchers who study lie detection because goose bumps can be a telltale sign of deceit. Another group of scientists are interested in identifying and monitoring individuals with antisocial tendencies or personality disorders. Anyone who is curious whether they touched an audience—say, politicians, performers or marketers—could potentially use the sensor to gauge emotional impact. Even people with autism might benefit: the sensor could help them recognize their emotions and communicate them to others.
And if nothing else, the device could detect when you are cold and turn up the heat.