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This Pretty Temporary Tattoo Lets You Remotely Control Your Devices

This is some of the prettiest and easiest biohacking we’ve seen yet.

by Louise Matsakis
Aug 14 2016, 6:05pm

GIF: MIT Media Lab

In collaboration with Microsoft Research, Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao, a PhD student at MIT's Media Lab, and a team of fellow researchers have designed a new fabrication process which allows anyone—with the time and money—to create temporary, functional "tattoos" for their skin.

By applying conductive gold leaf to the body, Kao's process, DuoSkin, produces a less invasive, and more aesthetically appealing result than other forms of biohacking.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about DuoSkin is that the technique produces devices that are inherently temporary, creating technology that is intended to be used as a real style statement.

The researchers who created DuoSkin say it is possible to design a circuit on any graphics software. Then, all you would need to do is stamp the tattoo in gold leaf, and apply other components to make the tattoo interactive.

While the technique is vastly more user-friendly than other forms of biohacking, DuoSkin still isn't something the average person could carry out without some know-how.

With that said, it's not hard to imagine commercialized versions that consumers could purchase. For example, a music speaker could come prepackaged with a set of fashionable DuoSkin tattoos that allow for the music to be remotely controlled.

In a promotional video, Kao describes how DuoSkin can be used to create three "classes" of devices. The first, input devices, turn your skin into a trackpad. The second, output displays, report information about your body, such as its temperature. The third, communication devices, allow others to digitally receive information from your tattoo, in the form of something similar to an NFC tag.

Since DuoSkin doesn't require surgery, it might be a good introduction to biohacking for the majority of Americans who are afraid of using technology to alter their bodies.

This isn't Kao's first experiment with technological body modification. Last year, she built NailO, a tiny device mounted on your thumbnail that can be used to send a quick text message or email, particularly in situations where whipping out your smartphone might been seen as rude. The device essentially turns your thumb into a tiny trackpad.

DuoSkin is set to be presented at a symposium for wearable technology next month.