Technology & Tattoos: ‘Smart’ Tattoo Controls Your Phone

Technology is advancing fast and it has found its way into our body art. Tattoos are not taboo anymore and now you can even control your phones with them. Yes, it is possible, since a group of PhD students from MIT Media Lab, along with the Microsoft Researchers have come up with the most amazing wearables. We are talking about a temporary tattoo that you can use as a touchpad to control your smartphone remotely and easily share data by using NFC.

This new ultimate wearable is called DuoSkin and it was recently presented at the wearables symposium. According to researchers, you can design your own circuit by using any graphic software and stamp out the desired tattoo in gold leaf. Gold leaf acts as a conductor which enables the data to be transferred, but you have to apply other commodity materials and components so your tattoo would be fully functional and interactive.

MIT students and Microsoft Researchers stated in their paper the three key uses of the upgraded tattoo:

  1. You can pull data from the tattoo itself
  2. You can use the tattoo to turn your skin into a trackpad or
  3. You can design the tattoo to change colors based on temperature

Also, you can make your tattoo more interesting by including a few LED lights and creating a glowing display on your skin, just like MIT showed in the picture they shared.

What is more, you can use this cool tattoo for wireless communication. The tattoo could include an NFC (near field communications) tag, which is an electrical component with small microchips that can store data and transfer them onto your phone or other similar devices nearby. Hopefully, in the near future, such technology can become a substitute for subway cards, identification and even movie tickets.



However, even though DuoSkin sounds like the latest innovation, this is not the first time someone attempted turning our skin into a touchpad. In 2010, Microsoft Researchers in collaboration with a Carnegie Mellon student came up with Skinput. This project is similar, but it contained a pico projector that would turn the palm or back of your hand into a small gestural finger input canvas.

However, Skinput project was far more expensive to build and the device that would project the interface on the skin was not as convenient as a simple tattoo. DuoSkin is more accessible since all you have to do is stick the temporary tattoo on your skin with a damp cloth and then peel off the tattoo paper. Eventually, you can remove it easily, but in the meantime, you can use it to control your smartphone, unlock doors, change the colors of the tattoo and use your skin as a trackpad.  Additionally, “smart” tattoos are far more appealing to the eye than a tiny projector and they look cool.

Sadly, DuoSkin is still not a product or a prototype. Rather, its researchers call it a project and the team hopes that someone will see their idea, read the paper and use the innovative information as basis to make and improve their own personalized futuristic wearables.


However, some people might fear that the technology has gone too far. People still prefer their “dumb” tattoos that just look pretty. On the other hand, there are those who look forward to realization of this project, and until then everyone can get the best tattoos in Sydney by the Tattoo Movement artists and even come up with their own futuristic design that will later be a foundation for their “smart” tattoos.

About Dan Radak

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