• 01.01.06

This Will Make Your Skin Crawl

A new concept could let your own epidermis become a medical monitor.

The future of health care? It may be this concept for programmable video displays embedded just under the surface of your epidermis, made possible by billions of microscopic robots.


Robert A. Freitas Jr., a fellow at the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing, says the robots, one-billionth of a meter small, would emit minuscule amounts of light. Together they could form text and graphics, recognizing finger-tap instructions to scroll and change menus. Other nanorobots throughout your body would gather medical data and transmit it to the display.

Dartmouth and MIT researchers have already built tiny, wirelessly controlled robots. Freitas says the machines he envisions, a thousandth the size of those critters, will take another 20 years to perfect. The goal, he says, is to empower people “to take control of their own personal medical destiny” with constantly updated data at their fingertips (and in them).