MIT, Microsoft Research create a tattoo that can control your phone

DuoSkin, DuoSkin tattoo, DuoSkin wearable, MIT and Microsoft Research, MIT labs skin wearable, Tattoo to control smartphone, Microsoft Research

Remember how in Harry Potter, Voldemort uses the Dark Mark to summon his Death Eaters? In our Muggle world, magic is still a distant dream, but imagine if you had wearables like tattoos on your skin, and you could use them to control your smartphone? PhD students at the Michigan Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Labs in association with Microsoft Research have developed something close. Wearables are the next big step in technology, and DuoSkin is temporary tattoo that can be used to control smartphones, share data via NFC and more.

MIT Media Labs’ website gives out details of the tattoo, which will be showcased by the researchers at a wearables conference later this month. According to the website, Duoskin lets people create “customised functional devices that can be attached directly on their skin.” So a user could wear this on their hand, and then set up functions on how best to control their phone.

DuoSkin uses a gold metal leaf, and says the material is cheap, skin-friendly and can survive daily usage. The researchers have demonstrated three uses of this on-skin interface: sensing touch input, displaying output, and wireless communication. The gold-silver colour scheme of DuoSkin makes it look like a piece of jewelry, and in fact there’s a necklace style version of this as well that has been demonstrated.

So what exactly does DuoSkin do for the user? According to MIT’s website, it will “enable users to control their mobile devices, display information, and store information on their skin while serving as a statement of personal style.” The researchers have taken the idea of a wearable to the next level, and re-imagined as something stylish, which sits on the skin, rather than being one big bulky device.

With DuoSkin, MIT’s Lab had created an interface that can replace the traditional buttons sliders, trackpads. The tattoo incorporates all these elements and the 2D touchpad on it will use “row-column scanning in a two-layer construction that isolates horizontal traces from vertical traces.” It also brings soft displays on the skin using “thermochromic pigments,” and the colour changes based on body heat. The DuoSkin device also uses NFC to allow wireless communication across devices, and the NFC tag chip connects to a coil on the tattoo.

Wearables which are part of the skin is an idea that other companies are also working on. For instance, Google is working on a pair of smart contact lenses, which could help detect diabetes. But the gold and silver DuoSkin, looks set to revamp how wearables will be viewed in the coming years.