The latest in wearable devices might only be skin deep, thanks to new technology being developed to create tattoos (image: Chaotic Moon Studios) made of conductive materials. The so-called “tech tats” will be able to monitor users' vital signs and locations, with possible applications for medicine and banking, according to the company behind the idea.
Chaotic Moon, a design and development firm headquartered in Austin, Texas, is the company working to make tattoos do more than just express a person’s individuality with ink. The company referred to the technology as “biowearables,” devices that can be embedded directly into users.
“Everyone has this idea of the future as this guy with Google Glass and the Apple Watch and five Fitbits,” said Chaotic Moon creative technologist Eric Schneider in a company blog post. “But the goal is really wearable technology that you can’t even see.”
Fitness Tracker on Your Skin
While Chaotic Moon’s technology would be more integrated into a person’s life, it won't be quite as invasive as other medical devices that are actually implanted in the user’s body. That’s because the tech tattoos would sit on the surface of the skin, making them easy to remove, replace, or upgrade, according to the company.
That tattoo consists of components mounted on the skin and connected via an ink that can conduct electricity. The tattoo will be able to collect, store, send, and receive data. The company said the advantage of the design is that it eliminates larger, more cumbersome components that can generate electrical interference. The tech tats should also be much cheaper than larger, comparable devices, according to the company.
As a data tracking system, tech tats have some similarities with the fitness trackers such as Jawbone that are currently on the market. The devices' biosensors can track the locations and movements as well the fitness information of the users and forward that data to their smartphones, in much the same way other fitness trackers work. But Chaotic Moon said it is more interested in the potential medical applications for tech tats, particularly since they can potentially replace very large monitoring devices.
Take Two Tats and Call Me In the Morning
One potential application would be a sort of passive physical examination that would eliminate the need for an annual check up. Instead of going to a doctor’s office, the tech tat would be programmed to collect all the data a doctor would normally gather during an exam and forward that information to the patient's healthcare professional. In theory, the tattoos could be used to detect everything from early symptoms of a fever, vital signs, and heart rate.
The banking industry is another sector where the tattoo technology could be used. For example, the tattoos could be used to store financial data, allowing an individual to use it as a digital wallet. "Think of it as bio-NFC (near-field communication), instead of tapping your phone on a pay terminal, you’d gesture and payment info would be handed off to the terminal from the controller," the company said in the blog post. Because the tattoo literally sits on a user's skin, it should be less vulnerable to being lost or stolen.
Chaotic Moon didn’t provide details about a release date nor the expected cost of the device, but did indicate that it's aiming for a relatively low price.
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