Wearables

Smart tattoos with the Midas touch interface

Smart tattoos with the Midas t...
Compared to a traditional wearable, the DuoSkin is far more fashionable 
Compared to a traditional wearable, the DuoSkin is far more fashionable 
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A look at the fabrication process involved in creating one a DuoSkin tattoo
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A look at the fabrication process involved in creating one a DuoSkin tattoo
The process behind creating a DuoSkin tattoo is fairly simple
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The process behind creating a DuoSkin tattoo is fairly simple
A tattoo being used as a continuous slider
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A tattoo being used as a continuous slider
There's huge potential to customize the tattoos 
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There's huge potential to customize the tattoos 
LED lights can be integrated into the designs
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LED lights can be integrated into the designs
Depending on the use, the tattoos can change color based on temperature 
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Depending on the use, the tattoos can change color based on temperature 
NFC tattoos are passively powered
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NFC tattoos are passively powered
One of DuoSkin's potential designs 
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One of DuoSkin's potential designs 
The DuoSkin could be used as a rudimentary trackpad
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The DuoSkin could be used as a rudimentary trackpad
Gold leaf proved the most practical choice of material for DuoSkin
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Gold leaf proved the most practical choice of material for DuoSkin
DuoSkin is designed to be practical and fashionable 
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DuoSkin is designed to be practical and fashionable 
Compared to a traditional wearable, the DuoSkin is far more fashionable 
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Compared to a traditional wearable, the DuoSkin is far more fashionable 
The DuoSkin can be used as a volume slider
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The DuoSkin can be used as a volume slider
DuoSkin is currently being researched, but the practical uses are already evident 
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DuoSkin is currently being researched, but the practical uses are already evident 

Wearables have taken lots of different shapes, but electronic tattoos and second-skins have the potential to be the most convenient option of the lot. Looking to take on-skin technology beyond the medical monitoring arena, Microsoft Research and MIT are exploring the potential for functional temporary tattoos made from gold leaf that offer input, display and wireless communications capabilities, while looking fabulous.

Although a lot of time has been dedicated to investigating medical on-skin technologies, Microsoft Research and MIT were more interested in creating cost-effective on-skin user interfaces for those with an eye for fashion. With this in mind, they developed the DuoSkin fabrication process that makes use of cheap materials and doesn't rely on any complex manufacturing procedures so designs can be easily customized.

Making a piece of DuoSkin "jewellery" is a fairly simple process. The conductive gold leaf circuits can be designed using regular 2D graphic design tools, and can be applied to a piece of store-bought tattoo paper. Although gold leaf might not be something we see every day, it's also not very expensive, so making use of its conductive properties won't break the bank.

NFC tattoos are passively powered
NFC tattoos are passively powered

Application is no more complex than for a regular temporary tattoo, but once applied it is far more useful than a regular stick on. The research team has demonstrated three potential uses for the technology: as touch-sensitive input devices, as a color-changing display, and for wireless communications.

In terms of a touch interface, the team tested different types of sliders and buttons, with both continuous sliders and less precise (but simpler) setups proving workable despite requiring an Arduino mini controller and a small LiPo battery. Interestingly, tests showed copper was far less durable than gold leaf when being poked and prodded by the wearer, making gold leaf the first-choice for the tattoos – it was also preferred over copper tape and thread for aesthetic purposes.

Using thermochromic pigments, which switch between two different colors in response to changes in temperature, the team also demonstrated a tattoo that changes color when heated above the wearer's normal body temperature, thereby allowing dynamic designs.

To demonstrate the potential for tattoos to be used to communicate wirelessly with other devices, the team paired a passively-powered NFC chip with a gold leaf coil. This could allow people to wear their movie ticket on their arm or make payments with a wave of their hand. All up, researchers estimate a 3 x 4 cm (1 x 1.5 in) NFC unit would cost less than US$2.50.

The team also "highlighted" the purely decorative potential of the technology by embedding LEDs into a tattoo that resembled an on-skin necklace.

As with regular tattoos, the researchers believe that simple wearer customization is essential for on-skin technology to reach wider adoption. The DuoSkin fabrication process and the personal aesthetic principle it embraces could be the key to delivering more functional skin art.

Examples of the DuoSkin tattoos can be seen in the video below.

Source: Microsoft Research/MIT Media Lab

DuoSkin:Functional, stylish on-skin user interfaces

2 comments
Bob Flint
Guess men would have trouble with our hairy arms, & forearms. Do we really need another input device, especially this temporary?
noteugene
ah, they will improve on this one and we'll be forced to have it imprinted into the back of our hands or foreheads. carries all of our medical info they will say.