Google Develops Smart Tattoos To Transform Your Skin Into A Touchpad

Google SkinMarks
You might have a wildly cool tattoo on your arm or wherever you chose to place it, but does it serve double duty as an interactive touchpad? SkinMarks do, and Google is working with researchers from Saarland University in Germany to hone the technology, which essentially turns human skin into electronic touch interfaces.

These are temporary tattoos, not permanent ones, that users can apply similarly to any temporary tat. As in, you take a piece of paper with the temporary tattoo on it, place it somewhere on your body, and wet it down with a sponge. Then peel off the paper carefully, leaving behind a tattoo that is easily removed, or essentially disintegrates over time.

What makes SkinMarks unique, however, is they're designed with conductive ink. They also contain dub-millimeter electrodes for touch sensing, which is not something typically found on a temporary tattoo inside a Cracker Jack box or at a carnival, or wherever kids get them these days.

What's the point? In a white paper (PDF) on the subject, the researchers note that the human body is a "promising surface for mobile computing," because it's large and contains quickly accessible areas for various interactions.

"The human body has various types of landmarks which are distinct from their surroundings. It offers unique possibilities for interaction due to their tactile properties and visual appearance. For example, protruding skeletal landmarks, like the knuckles, provide physical affordances for touching and circling around them," the paper states.

These tats conform to fine wrinkles and have no trouble wrapping around "strongly curved and elastic body locations." This opens up numerous possibilities for their application and function. For example, tapping or swiping across tatted knuckles, pinching/squeezing a flap of skin on the upper wrist, or bending a finger, to name a few examples.

SkinMarks could potentially be used as shortcuts to things you might do on your smartphone or PC. We doubt this will become mainstream, but hey, stranger things have happened.