Temporary tattoos made of conductive materials could be a happy medium between bulky wearable devices and extreme biotech that involves implanting sensors into your body. A tech design and development company called Chaotic Moon, based out of Austin, Texas, is creating electronic tattoos that sit on the skin’s surface to collect, store, and share data about the user’s body. These tattoos are made of components, including a microcontroller and LED lights, which are mounted on the skin and connected with conductive ink. They sit on the surface of the skin like a Band-Aid, which makes them easy to remove, replace, or upgrade, as needed. As a bonus, they are also aesthetically pleasing (in other words, they look pretty cool). While it might sound a bit gimmicky at first, these so-called “tech tats” could make your life easier in the following ways.
- Replace your fitness tracker
They have similar capabilities to fitness trackers such as Jawbone and Fitbit. Biosensors track the locations and movements of the users, as well as physiological markers (heartrate, temperature, etc.) that indicate health. Just like fitness wristbands, the tattoos send this information to a user’s smartphone.
- Never lose your wallet again
The tattoos could eliminate wallets altogether, by storing a user’s bank account and personal identification and then using near-field communication to share this information with a receiver. A man recently demonstrated this concept by waving his hand to transfer a bitcoin to another account. While he went with the extreme option of implanting sensors into his body, a temporary tattoo version would be much less invasive. Still, the tattoos would sit on the skin, so they would be less likely that a traditional wallet to be lost or stolen.
- Eliminate your annual physical
Chaotic Moon is especially interested in using the tech tattoos to replace bulky medical devices. The company has said that their product’s sleek design eliminates larger, more cumbersome components that can generate electrical interference. The tattoos could monitor patients’ vital signs and share that information with healthcare providers, potentially eliminating the need for an annual checkup. The tattoo could also detect early signs of a fever and automatically notify users or caregivers. Parents, for example, would have a head’s up when their children are starting to get sick.
The tattoos haven’t been commercialized yet, and it’s not clear how much they would cost. Chaotic Moon has said, “you’re eliminating clunky, expensive devices with a low-interference, low-cost, and low-hassle alternative, and using the user’s skin as the interface.” Similar options are being developed by several research groups around the world, so stay tuned for where to buy electronic tattoos in the next few years.