Researchers have now created a ‘smart tattoo’ that behaves almost like an extension of your second skin and is capable of remotely controlling your phone. The new technology called DuoSkin uses gold leaf to transfer the tattoo on to your skin.
This connected tattoo which is a joint effort of a group of PhD students from the MIT Media Lab and researchers from Microsoft Research is the subject of a paper to be presented next month in Heidelberg, Germany, at the International Symposium on Wearable Computers.
“DuoSkin draws from the aesthetics found in metallic jewelry-like temporary tattoos to create on-skin devices which resemble jewelry. DuoSkin devices enable users to control their mobile devices, display information, and store information on their skin while serving as a statement of personal style,” explains the research team in their paper.
So you can put it on your skin the same way you would a normal temporary tattoo, but what’s fascinating is that you can tap on it to control your smartphone or computer. The research team explains that gold leaf has been chosen as it is “cheap, skin-friendly, and robust for everyday wear”, and is highly malleable to be flattened into any design.
The paper demonstrates three types of on-skin interfaces: sensing touch input, displaying output, and wireless communication.
The on-skin input elements resembles traditional user interfaces, such as buttons, sliders, and 2D trackpads. The 2D touchpad uses row-column scanning in a two-layer construction that isolates horizontal traces from vertical traces. The two layers are fabricated separately and then applied onto the skin.
The output display brings soft displays onto the skin, enabled through the ink-like qualities of thermochromic pigments. These displays have two different states and color change is triggered when heated beyond body temperature.
To exchange data across on-skin interfaces, DuoSkin uses wireless Near-field Communication (NFC), whose tags comprise a chip that connects to a coil. Furthermore, the “connected” antenna tattoos can transmit data via Bluetooth or NFC just like a regular smartphone.
“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 added.
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