DuoSkin: MIT, Microsoft Creates Smart Tattoos to Control Smartphones

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Microsoft Research have created a series of smart temporary tattoos called DuoSkin, a wearable gadget that can remotely control smartphone, PC and other devices through touch.

According to researchers, anyone can create customized tattoos on their own with cheap materials. Various graphic designing tools can be used for the design, it can then be transferred directly to a tattoo paper for easy application. But DuoSkin technology is proven to be cheaper and simpler compared to other versions.

The team, led by PhD student Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao, designed the DuoSkin to look like layers gold and silver metal leaf. The device, once worn, can turn the skin into touchpad through which devices will be controlled easily.

The gold or silver metal leaf works as a conductor and connect parts of a small, simple circuit. LED lights were also incorporated into the tattoo which gives the skin a glowing appearance.

In the current prototype, the gold leaf traces are connected to a microcontroller and wireless communication unit that enables interaction with smartphones, computers and other devices. They are also planning to use it as a substitute for subway cards, identification cards or movie tickets.

The research team developed four patterns for four different uses. They created a simple button for single clicks, a slider for single scrolls, a slider for continuous scrolls, and a more complex lattice shape for a trackpad.

Aside from being a trackpad or button to remotely control a phone, smart tattoo can also show its user’s information. Quartz, Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao, lead researcher for DuoSkin confirmed in an interview that the smart tattoo may also be used for wireless communication.

As well as the touch-input tattoos, Kao has developed a prototype for output-display tattoos, which use thermochromic dyes that change colour based on your body temperature.

The final prototype includes near-field communications (NFC) device with small microchips tags, which means data can be stored on your skin and read by phones or other NFC-enabled devices.

The DuoSkin is designed to last for few days, just like a regular non-electronic temporary tattoo. It will be presented in Heidelberg, Germany, at the International Symposium on Wearable Computers next month, Geek Wire reported.

“I think there is no fashion statement greater than being able to change how your skin looks,” said Kao.

MIT and Microsoft Research initially presented a paper in May at the ACM CHI conference in San Jose, California regarding a tattoo fabrication process. During that time, they called their smart tattoo Tattio.

See video of DuoSkin



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