MIT's Sensor-Laden Masking Tape Gives You Computer By the Foot

2022-10-09 12:59:57 By : Ms. Yanqin Zeng

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From motion capture to medical devices, it's hard to see what Sensor Tape can't do.

The MIT Media Lab has made a roll of sophisticated sensors that's as easy to use as masking tape.

Sensor Tape is a programmable sensor network built into a flexible film that can determine its own 3D position and sense light. The Media Lab researchers have demonstrated that this technology could be used for things like motion-capture animation, posture correction, or graphic design, but there could be a number of odd or as-yet-unknown applications for the tape.

The sensors embedded in the tape are all connected to their neighbors, allowing the chain of circuits to compile all their data into a 3D model of the tape's shape. Accelerometers and gyroscopes track the positions of the sensors in real time. The tape also includes light sensors and proximity sensors that can measure the distance to objects in front of them. Sensor Tape can be used as a kind of smart measuring tape, allowing you to wrap just a small piece of it around a large cylinder to determine the diameter and perform other calculations.

"You can buy the computer by the meter. Maybe each unit will be its own computer... so the longer it is, the more powerful it is," Artem Dementyev, the PhD student at MIT Media Lab who leads the project, told Co.Design.

Sensor Tape is manufactured the same way that rolls of LED lights are, and it can be cut and spliced back together to create rectangular sensor networks. By cutting diagonally across black lines on the tape, you can safely break the circuits and reconnect them by using a conductive tape or soldering them back together.

The tape could be used in constructing a smart home, or to develop new medical devices to measure the body. Dementyev told Fast Company that the tape is as much for designers as it is for engineers. He is currently working on a new project to create full sheets of sensors to see how the technology might scale. Perhaps it won't be too long until you can pick up something like Sensor Tape at your local hardware store for home electronics projects.

Source: Fast Company Co.Design

Jay Bennett is the associate editor of He has also written for Smithsonian, Popular Science and Outside Magazine. 

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