Microsoft patents blood, skin

The Economist this week runs a story that looks like it belongs in the Onion.

Microsoft, that imperialist of the information-technology world, has actually succeeded in patenting the human body as a computer network. US Patent 6,754,472, issued to the company on June 22nd, is for a “method and apparatus for transmitting power and data using the human body”…

As the patent puts it, “The physical resistance offered by the human body can be used in implementing a keypad or other input device as well as estimating distances between devices and device locations. In accordance with the present invention, by varying the distance on the skin between the contacts corresponding to different keys, different signal values can be generated representing different inputs.” In other words you can, in theory, type on your skin.

This is clearly a vast improvement on “writing things down”, “speaking” and “listening”. It all sounds pretty revolutionary, no?

…It all sounds very revolutionary, but Microsoft is not (as is often the case with the firm’s “innovations”) actually the pioneer in the field. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Laboratory and IBM jointly developed the idea of using the human body as a personal network nearly a decade ago.

More here. Via Patrick.