The wonders of wearable tech: tattoos that control your phone

The wonders of wearable tech: tattoos that control your phone


Since 2014, the wearable tech market has surged in popularity. It seems like everyone is either sporting a smart watch or some kind of health tracker. In fact, according to Forbes, the wearables market exceeded $2 billion in 2015 and will hit almost $3 billion this year.

And just when it seemed like we were getting used to these new toys, researchers at the MIT Media Lab threw a curve ball with DuoSkin.

Using gold leaf, the same material that’s found in picture frames and chocolates, PhD student Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao created a genius way to turn removable tattoos into interfaces that can control your phone.

While it’s difficult to see a genuine practical usage for this kind of thing, we can agree that it’s novelty absolves it from such trivial criticisms.

It’s simple yet sophisticated. The gold leaf used in the wearable acts as a conductive coil that connects to an NFC tag. With the NFC tag, the DuoSkin system not only works as a phone interface, but also as authentication or as a method of payment.

Best of all, these things can be made at ridiculously cheap prices.

“This is something that we purposely wanted to make accessible to anyone,” said Ms. Kao in a promotional video. “you could just use any graphic design software on your computer…to design the circuit.”

Currently, the device is broken in to three classes. The first class is input devices, which basically turns your tattoo into a track pad or a controller to adjust your music player.

The second class is output devices, which involves tattoos that light up according to your body temperature or even your current emotional state. If this technology catches on, this is something that will definitely be popular in large scale concerts and festivals.

The third class is communication devices such as the aforementioned NFC tags. This allows devices to read data directly off your skin, which would be especially useful for making quick tap payments or scanning movie tickets.

Before creating DuoSkin, Ms. Kao drew inspiration from Taiwanese cosmetic and street fashion culture. It was the accessibility of clothes and the fast changing nature of fashion in Taiwan that intrigued Ms. Kao.

By making the fabrication process so cheap and customizable, Ms. Kao was able to capture that Taiwanese culture. It’s part of a larger desire for Ms. Kao to give people the opportunity to express themselves in a unique and fun way.

“They will not only be a very sophisticated technology,” said Ms. Kao “But they will also become an extension of yourself”