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Tech Tats: Biowearables v2

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It’s only eight months since our original Tech Tats article, which introduced you to the new wave of biowearables taking the tech world by storm. But the fast-paced environment surrounding the biowearable tech strain is such that it already needs an update.

Back in January, we introduced you to an Austin based software-design company called Chaotic Moon, who were prototyping a new range of skin tattoos with microcontroller hearts that could receive data from temperature sensors via electroconductive paint. The tattoos’ ingenious design was such that they could collect information from all over the body, which opened them up to a myriad of future possibilities including monitoring a baby’s vital signs after birth, sending bodily data reports to an external source for monitoring and even enabling payment authorisation in a tap-to-pay style scenario.

Unsurprisingly though, the biowearable market is teeming with devices all vying to be the first to crack the coding and bring tech tattoos into the mainstream. A note first though to say how relieved we are to see that Motorola’s 2013 Frankenstein-esque patent for a throat-tattoo microphone, which threatened to send vibrations from your larynx to your mobile handset or portable device by WiFi or Bluetooth, hasn’t seen the light of day yet.

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New Deal Design’s concept, Project Underskin, is the most advanced proposal on the market. Their 'smart digital tattoo' offers a device that would be used to scan entry into rooms, track the body with a biosensor and exchange information via touch, all with a device nestling just below the surface of the skin. New Deal Design said of their idea: “Our vision for the wearable of the future sits at the nexus of the different facets of our identity by seamlessly integrating into our lives at the most personal level: Under the Skin. Our interface is ambient and personal, appearing when appropriate and dissolving into the background when not needed.”

Meanwhile the BioStamp Research Connect maybe not classify as a tattoo in the traditional form, but the body-worn sensor is so flexible and soft that it naturally conforms to the contours of the human body offering medical researchers the simplest system on the market for gathering complex physiological data.

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Likewise, Loreal’s My UV patch is more of a high-tech bandage than tattoo, but its photosensitive dyes change color in the presence of UV rays on the skin, and that's close enough for us. It’s designed to bring people closer to the reality of their UV exposure, users can see how many rays they’ve caught by taking a picture of their sticker with their smartphone. The companion app will then tell them of the potential damage done.

Finally, on a slightly more aesthetic note, Microsoft Research and Mit Media Lab have researched and developed DuoSkin, a temporary tattoo made from gold leaf with adaptable skin-on interfaces that include input, output and communication exchanges which allow users to control their mobile devices, display information, and store information on their skin whilst still maintaining a not too cyborg appearance. The team say the skin circuitry is relatively simple to both design and make, so let’s see where it heads in the following months.

Until our next biowearable update...you have been warned!

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