The wearable technology market has been flourishing in recent years, introducing a plethora of both technically and stylishly sophisticated devices from smartwatches and fitness trackers to jewellery and apparel. Now, MIT Media Lab and Microsoft Research have teamed up to create DuoSkin, a metallic temporary tattoo that can be used to control your computer, smartphone and other connected devices.
"I think there is no fashion statement greater than being able to change how your skin looks," Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao, a PhD student at MIT, said in a video about the project. "These tattoos enable anyone to create interfaces directly on their skin."
These temporary tattoos use layers of gold leaf — usually used to adorn picture frames and chocolates — that act as a conductor and connect parts of a small, simple circuit.
In a paper titled 'DuoSkin: Rapidly prototyping on-skin user interfaces using skin-friendly materials' to be presented at the International Symposium on Wearable Computers in September, the researchers detail how their new technology allows anyone to create their own durable, customised gold metal leaf temporary tattoo that can be worn directly on the skin and can be used in one of three different ways.
Tattoos that act as an input device can turn your skin into a track pad, allowing users to connect to a computer or smartphone and control apps by swiping on the tattoo itself.
The output devices have the ability to actually display information. For example, one tattoo can change colour based on your body temperature. Another can be paired with an app developed by the MIT team called "Couple Harmony" and allows partners to visualise each other's current mood.
The third class includes an NFC-enabled version of the tattoos that can be used as a wireless communication device, allowing you to exchange information such as "skin status" or movie tickets, by tapping a smartphone onto the tattoo.
Kao also notes that each tattoo can include an NFC chip, a thermochromatic layer or LED lights.
"In the future when you walk into a tattoo parlour, you would come out with a tattoo like this," Kao said. "They will not only be very sophisticate technically but they will become an extension of yourself."