The temporary tattoos that can control your smartphone

Right now, if you get a tattoo, it has just two metrics for success: to look good, and not embarrass you in 30-40 years’ time. As long as you avoid spelling mistakes and the classic mishap of recording your love of a fly-by-night band, then you’re golden. But the classic tattoo could be getting the kind of technological upgrade that pretty much nobody asked for, thanks to an interesting paper from MIT and Microsoft Research.

The temporary tattoos that can control your smartphone

The process is called DuoSkin. The results don’t look much like traditional tattoos for three reasons: 1) They’re not traditional tattoos, 2) They’re temporary and 3) To function they need a shiny layer of gold leaf on top.

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So what functionality do you get by turning bits of your skin the shade of Liberace’s piano? Well, firstly, it can change colour, turning your skin into a sort of display, responding to the temperature of your skin. More usefully, DuoSkin can also be used as an input method for mobile devices, meaning they can double up as a slider, trackpad or button. Finally, they can also store data, which phones can read via NFC.

They’re also pretty easy to make, which is a bonus. Simple graphics software makes the pattern of the circuit – add a layer of gold leaf and you’re good to go. And because they’re temporary, you’re unlikely to regret your choices too much. You can see more about how they’re made in the video below – it’s pretty clever stuff, even if right now it’s hard to see much real-world benefit.

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