These temporary tattoos turn your arm into a touchpad

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Temporary tattoos can be a fun, trendy and profitable promotional product, giving people the opportunity to change their look with a whimsical design or show brand loyalty without permanently altering their appearance. In the future, however, temporary tattoos might have a higher purpose than aesthetic. Researchers at MIT’s Media Lab recently created jewelry-inspired gold leaf tattoos that turn the skin into circuits.

“I think there is no bigger fashion statement than being able to change the way your skin looks,” says researcher Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao, lead developer of the DuoSkin project. “These tattoos allow anyone to interface directly on their skin.”

DuoSkin tattoos come in three varieties. There are input devices, which are tattoo touchpads that allow you to control your music device by swiping or tapping your skin. Exit devices turn the skin into a screen, using thermochromic pigments that change color based on body temperature. Kao gives the example of a fire tattoo that lights up depending on the emotions of the wearer. The third type of tattoo is related to communication. These tattoos act as near field communication (NFC) beacons to enable data exchange. NFC tags are a great way for brands to connect end users with bonus content online, helping promotional products generate even longer lasting impressions.

The concept of tattooing is accessible to almost anyone, according to Kao. Potential designers sketch skin circuits using any type of graphic design software, create a circuit template with an inexpensive vinyl cutter, apply gold foil as a conductive material, and mount the electronics. The finished tattoo is applied by water transfer, just like regular temporary tattoos. “Where I come from in Taiwan, there is a huge culture of cosmetics and street fashion which is very accessible and cheap; you can easily change and modify your appearance whenever you want, ”says Kao. “We voluntarily wanted to do [DuoSkin] accessible to everyone.


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