This is definitely a trend. Several of my recent posts have been about how medical devices are moving from 3-dimensional objects to 2-dimensional ones. Stickers, electronic tattoos, etc. Yet another similar type of device is being developed at UC Berkeley to sense tissue damage due to pressure (pressure ulcers such as bed sores) before evidence of the ulcer becomes apparent.
The device is a polymer film onto which gold electrodes are printed. The device passes an electrical signal through the skin and detects the difference in electrical impedance as the signal passes through healthy cells versus damaged cells. The altered impedance levels can be detected before any other signs of a potential ulcer are apparent. The developers envision incorporating the technology into bed sheets and smart garments for wheelchair users.
The systems that provide user control of these new flat devices are going to require just as much thought and innovation as the devices themselves. As of this writing, integrating smartphones into the system seems to be the method of choice. Will this continue to be the case? Will dedicated control/feedback systems be required/desired? Understanding and manipulation of graphical user interfaces has been based largely on translating 3-dimensional control forms (buttons, knobs, etc.) to 2-dimensional representations. Will this continue to be the case, or will we be able to use more abstract control concepts? These are things medical device designers will need to pay attention to as we move into the future.