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DuoSkin temporary tattoos can remotely control devices

Researchers at MIT's Media Lab have created a series of smart temporary tattoos that can control devices through touch (+ movie).

DuoSkin by MIT Labs

The team, led by PhD student Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao and working with Microsoft Research, designed the DuoSkin transfers to look like the gold and silver flash tattoos that are popular at music festivals.

But unlike regular stick-ons, DuoSkin is made from gold metal leaf. As a conductive material, it can interact with an electronic circuit that responds to touch.

DuoSkin by MIT Labs

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.

Working alongside Microsoft's research division, the group 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.

DuoSkin by MIT Labs

"This is something we purposefully wanted to make accessible to anyone," said Kao. "All you need is a graphic design software like paint or something to design the circuit."

"Then you would basically hook this up to a vinyl cutter and cut out the traces of the film layer on the tattoo paper and then you just lay on the gold leaf and remove it," she continued. "After this you apply the tattoo onto your skin like a normal temporary tattoo."

DuoSkin by MIT Labs

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 communication (NFC) tags, which means data can be stored on your skin and read by NFC-enabled devices. Other experiments included embedding LEDs into the circuit.

DuoSkin by MIT Labs

While Kao's metallic transfers would be used to control devices, materials scientist John Rogers created a similar tattoo-like electronic mesh that monitors temperature, hydration and strain.

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Other technological developments in body art include an industrial robot tattooing a person's leg for what the designers claim is the first time in history, and a machine designed to allow users to self-administer tattoos.