Long term vision

The radical long-term vision of the FITNESS (Flexible InteligenT NEar-field Sensing Skins) project consists of redefining the sense of ‘touch’ of devices with ultra low-power smart skins, leading to a transformation in safe and efficient human-device interaction that transcends physical limits.

This is enabled by measuring disturbances in the ‘near field’ of advanced electromagnetic metasurfaces which can also be used for ‘far field’ communications. Devices with ultra low-power smart skins can help humans transcend physical limits, leading to a safe and equal-opportunity society with advanced healthcare, increased gender equality and inclusivity of people with disabilities.



Communication and sensing capabilities are essential for today’s societies, and will become even more fundamental with the advent of robotics and human centric technological support. The sense of touch essentially concerns the detection of an object in direct contact with a person or a device.

For many robotic applications, in particular those where humans also interact, it would be extremely valuable to extend that sense to ‘near touch’, i.e. valid for non-direct contact. This radically new technology would increase safety and interaction possibilities in robot-human interactions, e.g. in future medical care; it will also be part of smart assisted mobility.


High-level objective

The FITNESS project will realize flexible smart skins able to provide a non-contact sense of “touch”. The envisioned smart skins will operate at microwave frequencies, and the same device will also allow far-field communication.

The key technology enabling these functionalities is that of metasurfaces, i.e. structured surfaces that have unusual properties at some frequencies. In this case, they convey and manipulate surface waves, which also can be turned into radiating leaky waves for far-field communications.


Transformative effect on society

Robotics will have an essential impact on society in home assistance (e.g. social humanoids) and manufacturing, where humans and robots are expected to cooperate closely and safely in complex environments (Industry 4.0). To unlock the full potential of robots, they should better sense their direct environment and have communication functions through a smart skin.

This will also allow robots to support people with disabilities. In the longer term, equipping humans with smart skins can help them to transcend their own physical limits, which supports inclusivity of people with disabilities and provides continuous health monitoring.