Flash tats and metallic jewelry tattoos are all the rage among the fashionistas. Why? Well, they can be used to aesthetically augment traditional metal jewelry or make you stand out from normal tattooed people. And you know what? Turns out they can also be used as on-skin electronic connected interfaces for any number of devices or applications.

Researchers from MIT’s Media Lab (in partnership with Microsoft Research) have designed what they’ve dubbed as DuoSkin–a metal leaf temporary tattoo that can be embedded with electronics to form a sort of a body-based circuit. That circuit can then be used to interface with mobile devices or PCs through the body-based trackpad or adapted for use as a type of activity tracer that monitors medical functions such as body heat or respiratory rates. It can even incorporate LEDs or set up as a thermochromic display using integrated heating elements.

The team designed DuoSkin using inexpensive, readily available materials, including gold or silver leaf that acts as the conducting material, along with a vinyl cutter and temporary tattoo printing paper. Designing an interface begins with sketching the circuitry using and graphics creation software you prefer. It then goes to the fabrication process, which begins with a stencil of the circuit produced using the vinyl cutter. The gold/silver leaf is then applied along with the electronics onto the temporary tattoo printer paper and finally, applied to the skin.

Those electronics help to complete the metal leaf circuit, giving the tattoo its functionality. For example, it could include LEDs, which light up and add to the tattoo aesthetic or include an NFC chip top interface with nearby devices. The possibilities are interesting no doubt, expanding to applications such as unique, wearable IDs. And what about CAD software? Just think how fancy you would look with a new metal leaf tattoo on your face each day that could totally control the movement of your 3D models. Ah, the future.

The team will present their DuoSkin project at this year’s International Symposium on Wearable Computers in Heidelberg, Germany from September 12-16. No word from 3D software companies if they will be supporting this type of peripheral.







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