MIT Researchers Announce DuoSkin Tattoos That Function As On-Body Device Controllers

Researchers at MIT have taken the concept of a temporary tattoo and launched it into the technology age. Using a process that creates conductive circuit designs that can be easily transferred to the surface of human skin, in addition to surface-mounted microcontrollers or LEDs, the researchers have developed user interfaces and simple displays that can be installed on human skin as wearable technology. The team at MIT is calling it DuoSkin.

nfc duo skin tattoo
An NFC Capable DuoSkin Device

There are three main steps in the process of creating a functional DuoSkin tattoo. First, graphic design software is used to sketch out the circuit. Then a stencil is made of the sketch and gold leaf (or an alternative conduction material) is applied, and any additional electronics are mounted. Then, when the entire assembly is complete, the DuoSkin device is applied to the user’s skin using water-transfer, just like other temporary tattoos. We should note that multi-layer DuoSkin devices are also possible, to create more complex circuits.

flame duo skin
The Flame In This DuoSkin Tattoo Can Change Colors

The DuoSkin devices can be used for a number of different things. Simple electronic jewelry is possible, for example, with elaborate designs and LEDs in place of gem stones. Input devices like buttons, sliders and 2D trackpads are possible. Using Thermochromic pigments that change color when heated, simple output displays can be built. And coils can be created for communication devices like NFC as well.

The technology the researches showed is still in its infancy and the size and weight of some of the companion chips, like the NFC controller for example, will present problems when the wearer sweats or gets wet, etc., but the applications for DuoSkin are practically limitless. Everything from security to identification devices can be made, as well as simple advertising, or inputs that communicate to larger devices – like a smartphone or PC – which will trigger some other event – you get the idea.