Researchers at the University of Washington have been developing a way for 3D-printed plastic objects to transmit data without the need for embedded batteries or electronics. Last year, they showed how their devices can take measurements of wind speed and liquid flow, and then transmit that information through an antenna that reflects ambient WiFi signals. Now, they’re taking their work a step further, bringing the technique to assistive technology.
While 3D printing can be used to create devices like prosthetics or smart pill bottles that can remind patients to take their medicine, this method doesn’t easily allow for the ability to monitor how patients use those devices. “We’re interested in making accessible assistive technology with 3D printing, but we have no easy way to know how people are using it,” Jennifer Mankoff, a professor with the university’s School of Computer Science & Engineering and a researcher on the project, said in a statement. “Could we come up with a circuitless solution that could be printed on consumer-grade, off-the-shelf printers and allow the device itself to collect information?” Turns out, they could.