A View from Rodney Brooks

Really Cheap Electronics

Here is a report on a company called T-Ink Inc. which is printing conductive ink, and making simple circuits on paper and plastic. So far they are limited to being fairly simple sensors or control circuits. But there is a…

  • October 28, 2003

Here is a report on a company called T-Ink Inc. which is printing conductive ink, and making simple circuits on paper and plastic. So far they are limited to being fairly simple sensors or control circuits. But there is a lot more coming in very cheap-to-fab electronics (and “very cheap” means very cheap as the microprocessor chips in most home appliances and toys are already down in the 20 cent range, so we’re talking way sub penny prices here for a processor). The September 18 issue of Nature had a story, a box report, and a scientific paper about self assembly of nano-wires and how these can produce thin film transistors on cheap plastic substrates rather than expensive silicon crystals. Conductive ink and self assembling nano-wires are two examples of how the price of electronics may come down significantly for embedded applications. When a disposable newspaper is also a computer, or when a shirt has a million networked computers embedded in it, the way we interact with all our artifacts is going to change drastically. RFIDs attached to every product we buy a few years from now are just the barest beginning of how things might change. A couple of decades from now your clothes may be reading the weather reports wirelessly, and getting predictions of the local micro-climate (extrapolated from observations sent in by all the bricks in buildings in a two mile radius) and changing their micro-fabric characteristics to handle an incoming rain squall.

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus ad-free web experience, select discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly magazine delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.