Electronic tattoos are the latest thing in touch screen technology that lets you remotely control your smart phone.
Researchers at Saarland University and Google came up with electronic tattoos they call SkinMarks. They used conductive ink and temporary tattoo paper to place the tattoos onto skin. These tattoos can last for a few days.
Therefore, if you're not quite up to the commitment of getting a lifelong tattoo, these electronic ones are temporary. In fact, if you have permanent skin blemishes, old scars, or birthmarks, you can cover these up with the tattoos. Because they are very thin, the temporary tattoos will feel like real tattoos.
How Electronic Tattoos Work
You can input a number of different commands through different kinds of motions. For example, you can answer a call by pressing down on a skin blemish covered by the tattoo. You can also adjust the volume of the music you're listening to by stroking tattoos covering your fingers or knuckles.
Say that a strip of tattoo on your finger can control the music player on your smart phone. A motion like sliding a fingertip along the tattoo can adjust volume. Bending the tattooed finger, meanwhile, can play or pause your music.
Even more amazingly, these electronic tattoos can glow. For example, the tattoo can come in the shape of a particular app, like a messenger app. The tattoo can glow or light up when you receive a message notification. The research team can also make tattoos in shapes that correspond to particular phone contacts. This way, when the tattoo glows, the user will know that the particular contact is available for a phone call.
Of course, the research process was not without its bumps. One particular problem that the team had to work on is making the microcontrollers small enough. These microcontrollers are essential in making the entire thing work the way it's meant to. They transmit signals from the tattoo to the device in question and vice versa. The researchers connected a small microcontroller to the tattoos via copper tape for the study.
Electronic Tattoos: The Future of Smart Devices
As of now, the research team has only been able to test their invention on a computer. They are still planning on linking the tattoos to an Android device to test their practicality. Therefore, the technology is not quite ready yet. There are still some things to smooth over before the finished product becomes available for public use.
In fact, it may take a decade before we see the actual functioning tattoos. However, the team claims that this is the future of wearable technology. There are already smart watches and smart jackets, so the next logical step is these on-skin devices.
The researchers are still hard at work on perfecting the product, but they have a vision of the future. In this future, electronic tattoos will be all the rage, much like the iPhones of today. On-skin controls will be just as ubiquitous as the smart devices we use in the present. Of course, it may be a while yet before we see this vision come to fruition, but the wait will probably be worth it.
The team will be presenting their findings in May at this year's ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.
Get weekly science updates in your inbox!