DuoSkin, the ground-breaking new product from MIT and Microsoft, is a temporary tattoo technology which can turn skin into a touch interface for our digital devices. So far, the team has designed three classes of tattoos: input devices, turning the skin into a trackpad or controller; output devices, whose displays react to information about skin temperature or heart rate; and communication devices, whose patterns contain near field communication devices (NFCs) to transmit data to other devices.
The product can be made by individual users using any graphics software – even Paint – to design the circuit, which must then be printed onto temporary tattoo paper and traced with conductive gold leaf, all of which can be done cheaply at home. The open source nature of this new tech invites users to get creative with different designs and create imaginative new circuits, and the aesthetics of the product are heavily rooted in fashion, taking inspiration from metallic ‘flash tattoos’ – a popular fashion adornment.
So, could DuoSkin be the ultimate wearable? Are we looking at a world where television remotes never go missing, because they’re embedded into our arms? The short answer is no, not really. Whilst DuoSkin is designed to be produced relatively cheaply, making it much more accessible than competitor on-skin interfaces such as SkinTrack (we’re talking just a few pounds per tattoo), it still seems like a complication to the user experience, rather than simplification. Although the designers see the product as having potential in our day-to-day lives, for example by increasing the control pad area of smart watches, the temporary nature of the tattoos position them as more of a fad and less of a lasting piece of tech.
However, there could be a real use for the tattoos for brands at the experiential level. Think of a music event where users can vote for the next track by tapping their tattoos, or a sports event where they can control players from the backs of their hands. In these events, DuoSkin offers new potential to the world of experiential advertising, turning their temporary constraint into an asset.
So, whilst it’s unlikely that we will be incorporating this tech into our everyday lives, DuoSkin still broaches the gap between form and functionality in wearables. There is real potential for brands to incorporate this tech to enhance their brand world, particularly for youth-centric brands whose consumers have already adopted the flash tattoo trend. We say: watch this space.
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