New temporary tattoo lets you control your phone from your wrist

Scientists from MIT Microsoft Research labs recently changed the game for the future of wearables with temporary tattoos that can control computers, change color, and transmit data via near field communication (NFC).

As detailed on MIT’s website, these tattoos are actually made of electrically-conductive gold leaf, which is transformed into working technology by designing a circuit in any graphic software, stamping out the circuit in gold, attaching a few materials to make the tattoo interactive, and then simply applying the gold to skin like a regular temporary tattoo (apply a damp sponge and peel off the paper backing). The tattoo itself can be removed from the skin at any time, and gold is skin-friendly, too.

Appropriately, the researchers have decided to call this technology DuoSkin.

And already, it has several interesting uses, described as input, output, and communication by MIT. For input, the tattoo can be used for a variety of purposes, like trackpads, buttons, and sliders—you can even control the volume of music on your smartphone from your skin.

For output, the tattoo can actually be used as a display, with a color change of the tattoo being triggered by thin heating elements within it—like to show a change in your body temperature or to reflect your current emotional state.

And for communication, the tattoo can be used to store and transfer data, meaning data can be read directly off your skin.

The tattoo configured to transmit data using NFC (Credit: MIT)

The tattoo configured to transmit data using NFC (Credit: MIT)

Of course, DuoSkin isn’t mean to just be functional—it’s meant to look beautiful and fashionable as well. The researchers can embed LED lights, for example, in the tattoos, to add more to their look.

DuoSkin will be presented in full at a wearables symposium in September known as the International Symposium on Wearable Computers (ISWC).


Image credit: MIT