Microsoft and MIT Develop Touch-Sensitive, Color-changing Tattoos

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Normally, temporary tattoos are just gimmicky prizes you find in a kid’s meal or a box of cereal. The ones cooked up by Microsoft Research and MIT are actually high-tech wearables. This kind of wearable tech is already widely used in the medical world to monitor blood glucose and alcohol levels

Normally, temporary tattoos are just gimmicky prizes you find in a kid’s meal or a box of cereal. The ones cooked up by Microsoft Research and MIT are actually high-tech wearables.

This kind of wearable tech is already widely used in the medical world to monitor blood glucose and alcohol levels. The researchers working on this particular project wanted to take a look at other possible applications — things people like you and I do everyday.

They focused on using off-the-shelf materials and wound up creating simple circuits out of gold and silver leaf. It’s not too difficult to work with and it can be found at just about any craft store. Designs were laid out in a CAD app and then cut using a Silhouette Cameo desktop cutter.

Once the electronic components for a particular build were laid onto the leaf circuits, they were mounted on tattoo paper and ready for application. Just add water, and you’ve got a swipable UI element right on your skin that (thanks to the power of NFC) you can use to pause and restart your Spotify playlists, increase or decrease volume or brightness, or even mouse around like you would with your laptop’s trackpad.

The MIT/Microsoft team went beyond input devices, too. By embedding tiny heating elements beneath thermochromic materials they created “Couple Harmony,” a tattoo that changes color to display a users’ mood. One wearer taps a leaf on the tattoo to set his or her mood and it’s transmitted to another user whose flower changes certain petals from silvery-white to red to indicate happiness/sadness/rage/whatever Michael Phelps was feeling when he made that face in Rio.

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