The wristwatch may be wearable technology’s prize bull, but it’s far from the only option. In the past five years, we’ve seen the rise of smart-rings that can answer your phone and bluetooths, which are practically glorified earrings. However, as is often true when it comes to technology, the best is yet to come. On the island of Taiwan, tech-savvy artists are crafting body art technology that will transform your skin into a user interface. That’s right. Wearable technology has become so minuscule you can apply it like ink. This new body art technology isn’t just turning the human body into a computerized surface either. The designs are extremely aesthetic, utilizing geometric body art worn by the ancient Chinese and Egyptians. By fusing fashion, beauty, and technology with old and new designs, these innovative tech pioneers have crafted the most innovative wearable tech to date.
Functional tattoos are quite an extraordinary idea. There’s not really a fictional precedent for them to copy from. Instead of looking at a specific example, Taiwanese inventors used concepts like inclusiveness, accessibility, and diversity to guide their research. The tattoos are deeply influenced by Taiwanese culture, an environment where cosmetics and street fashion are cheap and easily accessible. Their simplicity, malleable material and customizable designs, give technology the versatility of a classic ink art pattern. It was this aesthetic freedom that attracted the attention of fashion and beauty experts. Up until 2017, wearable technology abided by athleisure guidelines. Smartwatches, smart necklaces, and the like were sleek and stark. Functional tattoos use a thinner material and their design allows many different designs to support the same interface. It’s artistic and functional, a rare partnership fashion has never been able to fully reconcile.
HOW IT WORKS
Gold and copper are excellent conductors or electricity, so most tech tattoos use an alloy of both for optimal conductivity. Currently, there are three different interfaces you can construct with body art technology. You can apply the input on your skin through a capacitive touch sensing product. If you’d rather wear an output, apply it through thermos-chromic resistive heating circuitry. Finally, there’s the wireless option, a communication system that uses near-field communication to connect your skin to your devices.
Once your tattoo has been applied, you can control any computer or smartphone by just touching your skin. You’ll also have the ability to connect to any technology with the proper password. Access to technology has never been this simple. When they finally invent the virtual screen projection from Iron Man and the Avenger films, you won’t even have to reach in your pocket to access the worldwide web.
What does body art technology like this mean for the future? Once again, people are re-defining technological terms to cover new inventions and interactive possibilities. Wearing fashion used to mean strapping something like a watch or computerized device to your neck, arm, or wrist. Now, you are the technology and your body surface is the machine. In the future, you’ll be able to store all your digital information on the surface of your own skin and maybe even call a friend with nothing more than a shake of your hand. Most significantly, these tattoos prove the union between fashion and technology can be aesthetically pleasing. You’re no longer limited to black plastic wristbands or cumbersome tech-powered glasses!
In March, the latest in body art technology won the SXSW Interactive Innovation Award. This is the same award transformative technologies like Twitter and Airbnb have won in the past. You’re no cyborg, but your life as a walking computer just began.
— Nathan Young