While we may be tempted to laugh at the idea, this future doesn’t seem too far off. VivaLnk has announced that they are releasing a ‘digital tattoo’ in collaboration with Motorola, which lets you unlock your mobile phone with a quick tap. The product that will be released is temporary, staying on your skin for up to 5 days, and costs $10 for a set of 10.
This comes in lieu of reports of companies showing interest in the prospect of ‘e-tattoos’. Last year, Forbes and BBC both reported that Nokia intends to look into haptic tattoos, a tattoo that would send vibrations into your skin based on commands from your phone. A permanent haptic tattoo would also attainable by using special ink capable of picking up specific magnetic field patterns, meaning that we’ll be able to feel a notification before we even hear it!
Google’s Motorola Mobility also reportedly filed an patent last week with the U.S. Patent Office for a method of pairing the tattoos with mobile devices. The patent explains that the device would sit on the user’s neck and serve as a supplemental phone microphone and transceiver, much like the way you use a Bluetooth headset now. Since the tattoo sits near the mouth, it would be able to pick up clearer audio, reduce background noise, making voice commands easier and phones truly hands-free. Since the patent was filed with the same company as the one that worked with VivaLnk on the digital tattoo, it could be said that this is Google’s first step into this field.
The idea of a digital tattoo has already made waves, inciting feelings of either intrigue or disgust. To many, it is like a glimpse into the terrifying but probable future that popular culture and sci-fi stories have already hinted at. The idea of technology being embedded into our flesh almost seems to blur the lines between human and machine. The VivaLnk ‘tattoo’, albeit temporary and seemly harmless, is close enough to this future to make your skin crawl at the idea (or vibrate).
There are merits to the idea of a digital tattoo. According to VivaLnk, you unlock your phone 39 times a day, and each time takes about 2.3 seconds. Their tattoo will save you up to one and a half minutes a day. That may seem trivial, but if you think about all the other things that you could do hands-free, it would probably help you make leaps and bounds in your daily efficiency. If every phone notification sends vibrations into your skin, you’ll never miss another reminder again. An embedded receiver on your neck would let you pick up a call, no matter how noisy your surroundings are. And honestly, in a world where we are already so dependent on our technology to live our lives, it shouldn’t be much more different if it were physically ingrained in us or not. Wearable technology has already proven this to us.
The technology to make tattoos like this permanent are already within our grasp, which makes the question not whether it is possible, but if humans are ready for this possibility. And whenever we decide we are, we can be sure that it will be there patiently waiting for us.