Smart Tattoos

By on May 3, 2017 in Technology

Everyday technology  devices have now beconecklaceme so small that that can be embedded into fabrics, worn as accessories or be attached directly to the user’s body on skin. Your next tattoo could be also functional besides aesthetic.

Such “epidermal electronics” are promising, they expand the sensing modalities of current mobile and wearable devices by sitting directly on skin, which facilitates direct access to users’ biomedical signals.

Researchers at MIT’s Media Lab have created a series of smart temporary tattoos that can control devices through touch. The team, together with Microsoft Research, designed the DuoSkin transfers to look like the gold and silver flash tattoos that are popular mostly at music festivals. DuoSkin is made from gold metal leaf, which is a conductive material that can interact with an electronic circuit that respond to touch. Pretty cool, right?

Researches devised three different ways in which the DuoSkin can be used, including as input devices that can turn your skin into a trackpad, or a capacitive virtual control knob for adjusting volume on your connected device. First, they used it as an input device, specifically as a controller for a music player. They created design stencils of traditional use interfaces like buttons, sliders and 2D trackpads.diagram

They also tried it as an input display that changes pigments, which change to one of its two states when heated beyond body temperature. Another function of these smart accessories is the interface as a wireless communication device that uses near field communication (NFC) tags, which means data can be sent from the tattoo to mobile phones with NFC capabilities.

The team from MIT’s Media Lab, led by PhD student Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao together with Microsoft Research also made them possible to be worn as jewelries and tried embedding LED lights into the tattoos as seen in the picture.

“We believe that in the future, on-skin electronics will no longer be black-boxed and mystified; instead, they will converge towards the user-friendliness, extensibility, and aesthetics of body decorations, forming a DuoSkin integrated to the extent that it has seemingly disappeared,” the team wrote.

Kao ends by suggesting they’d like to see this tech come to tattoo parlours, so it’s easy for anyone to get connected ink. She calls DuoSkin a “project” and not a product or prototype. The team hopes that others will use the information as a basis to create their own personalized on-skin wearables. In theory,DuoSkin-MIT-Labs-temporary-tattoo-touchscreen-device-technology-design_d... the process is simple. First, you sketch the circuitry with a graphic design software. Then, you have to create stencils of the circuitry by applying a layer of vinyl film on thin temporary tattoo paper and cut it with an electronic cutter.

After that, you layer the conductive gold leaf on top with spray adhesives. The next step is mounting the electronics. The DuoSkin device is planted on the users’ skin like a regular temporary tattoo through water-transfer: apply the tattoo to your skin, press down with a damp cloth, peel off the backing paper, and then remove it, leaving the tattoo behind.

But how much does it cost one of these toys? You would expect it to be pricey, but on the contrary, they estimated a 3 x 4 square centimeter gold leaf tattoo interface with an NFC tag would only cost less than $2.50. A lot of research teams besides Kao’s are also developing high-tech temp tattoos, but these ones look like something people would actually like to wear.