By Aaron Kesel
Google announced that its working on developing the next futuristic technology beyond smartphones — tattoos that turn the user into a human touchpad. Meanwhile, scientists are developing something way more sinister using similar skin-drawing technology to track its wearer’s movements.
Google is developing smart tattoos that, when applied to the skin, will transform the human body into a living touchpad via embedded sensors in the ink. No this isn’t science fiction, the wearable project is called “SkinMarks.” SkinMarks utilizes rub-on tattoos to create the next generation of wearable technology devices, CNET reported, citing white papers and demo videos.
So how does the technology work?
The sensor-driven tattoos are applied to a part of the body, preferably one where you can swipe up and down with ease like an arm. The sensors can then be triggered by traditional touch or swipe gestures as we perform daily on smartphones.
However, there are a few more specific gestures related to the appendages of humans.
“You could squeeze the area around the tattoo or bend your fingers or limbs to activate the sensors.”
The project is in part being conducted by researchers at Saarland University in Germany who wrote in a white paper that the benefit of using skin as an interface “is tapping into the fine motor skills that human beings naturally have.”
SkinMarks is partly being funded through Google Faculty Research Awards.
Interacting with your own skin and limbs also means that you would be able to do actions without looking; this is also applicable possibly for VR.
The tattoos are made by screen printing conductive ink onto tattoo paper which rubs away after use. Some of the prototype tattoos include cartoon drawings or light-up displays. “Through a vastly reduced tattoo thickness and increased stretchability, a ‘SkinMark’ is sufficiently thin and flexible to conform to irregular geometry, like flexure lines and protruding bones,” the researchers wrote.
Although Google’s skin tattoo isn’t a spying device yet, other researchers led by Cunjiang Yu, Bill D. Cook Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Houston, have developed a similar form of electronics known as “drawn-on-skin electronics,” allowing multifunctional sensors and circuits to be drawn on the skin with an ink pen.