Chip prototype gets under the skin

A Korean company wants the iPod to get under your skin, literally.

A chip conference in San Francisco on Thursday had a presentation by the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology titled “Silicon in Biology,” and such under-the-skin chips were on display and in the talk waves. The prototype sits just under the skin of the forearm and uses the body’s own propensity to create electricity to power the transmission sequences from the portable music player.

KAIST officials say that their solution can alleviate personal-area network concerns by taking them inside the body, thereby reducing power consumption. The chip, KAIST claims, has signals that are wideband but lower-impulse than their currrent counterparts, which do the exact opposite. According to Seong-Jun Song, a KAIST professor, the chips achieve data rates of up to 2 megabits a second but uses up less than 10 microwatts of power.

KAIST officials stressed that the chip was merely a prototype and that achieving a reality based on that prototype was not possible overnight. However, their suggestions did raise a few eyebrows.

Among the other presentations at the International Solid State Circuits Conference was one focusing on a brain activity monitor chip that sends data to monitors wirelessly. The presentation, made by officials at the University of Utah, expressed their ultimate goal, to manufacture a chip that can control prosthetic limbs using brain waves so that quadriplegics can have a low-power way to help move replacement arms and legs.

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