MIT and Microsoft Research unveil DuoSkin tattoos

A DuoSkin temporary tattoo which can be used as a trackpad. Image courtesy of MIT Media Lab
A DuoSkin temporary tattoo which can be used as a trackpad. Image courtesy of MIT Media Lab

Researchers at MIT have teamed up with Microsoft Research to develop a new kind of wearable interface they are calling DuoSkin.

The technology was unveiled in a paper released last week intended for the International Symposium on Wearable Computers 2016.

DuoSkin takes the form of tattoo-like patterns which are adhered to easily accessible parts of the wearer’s skin

The DuoSkin tattoos are temporary in nature, but are made out of a conductive material enabling them to form electric circuits.

“There’s this emerging popularity in these metallic-drawn temporary tattoos and they have enabled the skin to be put in the spotlight again as a surface for decoration,” said Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao a PhD Student at MIT Lab, and one of the authors of the paper on DuoSkin.

“We drew a lot from the usability and also the aesthetics of metallic temporary tattoos into the design of our on-skin interfaces.”

A DuoSkin tattoo, according to its inventors, allows for 3 different classes of interaction.

The first of these is allowing a user to use the tattoo as a touchpad to directly control a digital device.

The second class of tattoos can be used as output displays, able to change color, or light up based on electrical impulses.

Finally, MIT and Microsoft Research also see the possibility for these tattoos to be used as communications devices in the form of Near Field Communications (NFC) tags.

Two major issues that the team behind DuoSkin wanted to focus on were accessibility and aesthetics.

While similar technologies, such as ‘Skinput’, have attempted to create skin-based interfaces in the past, they were too expensive to see widespread use.

To overcome this, DuoSkin makes use of widely-available gold leaf which can be cut out using a simple computer-controlled machine.

As well, to make the tattoos themselves more fashionable, wearers can easily design their own DuoSkin patterns, allowing them to reflect their own individuality.

“They will not only be something quite sophisticated technically, but they will be an extension of yourself,” said Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao.

Currently there is no information on how far away DuoSkin is from market availability, or if its inventors want to commercialize the technology.