Flash Tattoos are about to get a crazy upgrade. Researchers at MIT's Media Lab, together with Microsoft Research, created wearable tattoos that can be used as a controller, among other things.
The tattoos, called DuoSkin, are made out of simple materials: gold leaf, vinyl film, and tattoo paper. The team then created three different uses for the tattoos. The first, called input, is about creating a design that can then work like a controller to work with something like Spotify. Another one, named output, is a tattoo that responds to body temperature by changing its color. Lastly, there's communication, which focuses on creating near field communication (NFC) design. The technology behind NFC is the same used on your iPhone to make Apple Pay work. So, in theory, you can use your tattoo to send data to your phone, like a movie ticket you bought.
Here's how you would make them: First, use a graphic design program to draw out what the circuit will look like. Then, using a vinyl cutter, cut out the design trace onto tattoo paper with a layer of vinyl film. Next, layer on the gold leaf and attach surface-mount electronics to it. After that, just slap it onto your skin like a temporary tattoo with water and you're set.
The team behind DuoSkin wants the product to be in the hands of everyone. "This is something that we purposely wanted to make accessible to anyone," said Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao, one of the members of the research team, in a video. The team estimates in their paper that creating a three-by-four-centimeter NFC tag is less than $2.50, making it a device easy enough to replicate.
This idea of a truly wearable tattoo device is one we hope to continue to see more in the future — and the research team agrees. "There is no fashion statement greater than being able to change how your skin looks," said Kao. Check out a video of DuoSkin ahead, as well as photos of what it looks like.