Smart Tattoos

These smart tattoos turn your skin into a touchpad

Photo: DuoSkin

It may sound like something lifted from the pages of a sci-fi novel, but scientists have developed tattoos that function as interfaces for smartphones and tablets. Getting inked has never been so fun

This pioneering concept is the brainchild of Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao, a PHD student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who developed the project following an internship at Microsoft Research last summer. Kao believes that smart tattoos could spark a tech revolution, as they offer consumers the chance to personalise their wearables and break away from a world of identikit smartphones and smartwatches.

How do smart tattoos work?

In a video demonstration, Kao shows how three versions of DuoSkin smart tattoos can be used, with each boasting a different function.

1. DuoSkin turns your skin into a trackpad. This means that with a single tap on your smart tattoo you can change the volume of a song or pause a podcast on one of your devices. 

2. It can also be used as an output device to track rapid changes in your heart rate and body temperature, which means we could soon be waving goodbye to running with smartbands. 

3. It’s also a communication device. A digital device held near the tattoo can scan it for information, which means you could be carrying movie tickets or bus passes directly on your arm in the near future.

© Youtube // Simon Black

Wearables for everyone

Wearable tech isn’t by any means a new idea, but so far no-one has built a similarly affordable product that is small, durable and allergy-free. Kao and her team use gold leaf (the kind you’ll find in picture frames and chocolates) as the basis of the tattoos, which meant production costs for the prototype set them back less than $175.

Stand out from the crowd

An added feature of smart tattoos is that they are fully customisable. In a workshop, people were allowed to create their own designs to meet their personal preferences. Kao expects the idea to take off on the high street, predicting that tattoo parlours and barbershops will evolve to produce customisable wearables in the future.

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08 2016 The Red Bulletin

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