Are Smart Tattoos The Next Big Thing In Wearables?

Wearables have become a way of life. This technology is evolving very fast, and it looks like the...

Photo credit: EmbodiedInteraction, YouTube screenshot

Wearables have become a way of life. This technology is evolving very fast, and it looks like the next big thing in wearable tech is smart tattoos. Smart Tattoos lies at the intersection of fashion, sustainability, and personalized experiences. These are personalized circuits, adhesives, conductors, and microprocessors that can be glued onto the skin. Smart tattoos can send signals to your phone via touch, allowing you to interact with the world around you, or they can also be used to monitor health.

Read more Carnegie Mellon Researchers Develop Ultra-Thin Electronic Tattoos that Can Power Wearables

Microsoft researchers demonstrated smart tattoos that can help you change channels on your TV. The researchers created smart decorative tattoos called Hack-a-Tatt that look like decorative body decoration but they also work as remote controls directly from the skin.

Google developed rub-on tattoos called SkinMarks that can transform your skin into a touchpad. The sensor-embedded tattoos are applied to a part of the body, like the ridge of a person’s knuckles or the side of a finger. Traditional touch or swipe gestures can trigger the sensors like you’d use on your phone. But there are also a few gestures that are more specific to working on the skin’s surface. You could squeeze the area around the tattoo or bend your fingers or limbs to activate the sensors.

Scientists have been developing wearable sensors that patients can use to keep track of their heart health over time. But many of these devices have been cumbersome or uncomfortable. Now, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin have designed a lightweight wearable material that could make heart health monitoring easier and more accurate than the existing ECG machines. The research team was led by Nanshu Lu in the Cockrell School of Engineering.

Read more: Very Thin Tattoo-Like Wearable Patch Monitors and Diagnoses Health Problems from Sweat

The smart tattoo is graphene-based and can be placed on the skin to measure a variety of body responses, from electrical to biomechanical signals. The device is so lightweight and stretchable that it can be placed over the heart for extended periods with little or no discomfort. It also measures cardiac health in two ways, taking electrocardiograph and seismocardiograph readings simultaneously.

Disadvantages

It’s hard to make smart tattoos that are safe, strong and that can last for few years, reports The Pourquoi Pas. Biocompatibility is a big issue here. People are allergic to certain materials. Also, human skin experiences a lot of different forces throughout the day. When you put on a jacket, for example, if you’re not careful, you may unintentionally rub it against the tattoo and remove it.

Sam Draper
October 23, 2020

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