The Future is Here: High Tech Tattoos


Tattoos are ever-evolving. Since Neolithic times tattooing has become a common practice by different civilisations, and technology has made it what we know today. Now, it seems, it’s taking us to the future. Tattoos created with DuoSkin don’t just look cool – these high-tech tattoos are practical as well, since they’re essentially a wearable interface that lets you connect and interact with a multitude of devices.

What is DuoSkin?

Researchers at the MIT Media Lab have created metallic temporary tattoos that can be used as connected interfaces. The DuoSkin technology was created in partnership with Microsoft Research. PhD student Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao and the rest of the MIT team used gold metal leaf, a cheap and sturdy material, to create three different types of interfaces: sensing touch input, displaying output and wireless communication.

The input interface includes elements that resembles buttons and sliders, and has a 2D touchpad that allows users to interact with the tattoo. The output interface creates displays on the skin, as the thermochromic pigments used trigger colour changes when heated through body temperature. As for communication, DuoSkin devices are capable of exchanging data across various on-skin interfaces.

How do These Tattoos Work?

This innovative technology might look complex at a first glance but it’s actually built in a very simple way. The skin circuitry is sketched with graphic design software, and is then fabricated in a process that includes the creation of stencils, the application of gold leaf as the conductive material and the mounting of the electronics. The final step, after the circuitry is done, is the application of the tattoo to skin, through the use of the water-transfer method.

The end result is a tattoo that looks very similar to the temporary metallic tattoos that are so fashionable right now. the DuoSkin process, then, creates tattoos that are not only functional but aesthetically pleasing as well!

Will People Be Able to Have Them?

The goal behind using the DuoSkin process is to have these tattoos introduced in parlours, making it accessible for the public. After all, because of the affordability and aesthetic appeal of the tattoo, as well as the fact that the wearer can choose any design they wish, DuoSkin has the potential to increase the value and attraction of wearable technology.

The way tattoos are designed, created and applied is constantly changing over the years, so maybe in a near future permanent tattoos that act as an interface will also become possible.