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Microsoft and MIT unveil smart tattoos

Image: DuoSkin smart tattoo
A DuoSkin touch-slider tattoo uses gold and silver leaf. (Credit: Jimmy Day / MIT)

Smart tattoos made out of super-thin electronics have been a thing for years, but now the technology is getting closer to fashionable prime time.

Microsoft Research has joined forces with MIT Media Lab for the latest iteration, dubbed DuoSkin. The skin-friendly process is the subject of a paper to be presented next month in Heidelberg, Germany, at the International Symposium on Wearable Computers.

“DuoSkin draws from the aesthetics found in metallic jewelry-like temporary tattoos to create on-skin devices which resemble jewelry,” the research team reports in its paper about the technology.

The tattoos consist of artistic arrangements of conductive gold and silver leaf, plus tissue-thin electronics.

Apply an array of the circuitry to your forearm, using a water transfer method similar to that used for everyday temporary tattoos, and you have a trackpad or touchpad to control a music player or smartphone.

Other applications include tattoos that can change color or light up to reflect your mood, and an antenna tattoo that can transmit data via Bluetooth or near field communications (a.k.a. NFC).

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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