Quantcast

«

»

Mar 31 2014

My future tattoo

I, for one, welcome our glorious future of ubiquitous computing. Researchers have come up with a temporary tattoo that functions as a computer, complete with processing power, data storage, and wireless data reception and transmission. Also, drugs.

The researchers constructed the device by layering a package of stretchable nanomaterials — sensors that detect temperature and motion, resistive RAM for data storage, microheaters and drugs — onto a material that mimics the softness and flexibility of the skin. The result was a sticky patch containing a device roughly 4 centimetres long, 2 cm wide and 0.003 millimetres thick, says study co-author Nanshu Lu, a mechanical engineer at the University of Texas in Austin.

They’re not talking about recreational drugs (but maybe in a future update!), but that the purpose of this device is continuous physiological monitoring and delivery of therapeutic drugs in response, so a specific and very useful initial goal.

Give it a few years, though, and forget the iPhone and iWatch and iWhatever — I just my hands and forearms covered with fancy circuitry that does cool stuff.

Unfortunately, the article mentions one serious limitation: we’re waiting for the development of a thin, flexible battery to power all this gadgetry. Once that’s all worked out, though, it’ll be a wonderful fashion accessory to go with my transparent cranium.

40 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    moarscienceplz

    we’re waiting for the development of a thin, flexible battery to power all this gadgetry.

    Why not a thermocouple that uses body heat? It’s inexhaustible, or at least, when my iTattoo runs out of power, I won’t care.

  2. 2
    doubter

    Tattooed circuitry and a fashionably transparent cranium. Do you secretly aspire to be a supporting character in a William Gibson novel?

  3. 3
    cuervocuero

    Cue “Number of the Beast” screaming in 3, 2, 1….

  4. 4
    Gregory in Seattle

    I can almost see powering very small devices such as therapeutic monitors by drawing on the body itself. I don’t think we generate enough electricity to tap (the Matrix was way off on the “body as battery” thing) but thermal differentiation might work.

    Less effective would be to put a battery into a ring or bracelet, with a similar applied adhesive connecting the battery to the device. Better yet, and still within current technology, would be to make the ring or bracelet powered kinesthetically, similar to how a self-winding watch works. That would increase initial cost, but eliminate the need for buying and disposing of batteries.

  5. 5
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    Glucose batteries are actually a thing now; there’s several groups working on one that’ll run e.g. a pacemaker off of your blood sugar.

  6. 6
    Inaji

    Wow. Very impressive.

  7. 7
    badgersdaughter

    I have no problem with technological body mods so long as they are easily upgradeable and considered part of my body for, say, medical insurance purposes, and don’t, say, interfere with emergency surgery.

  8. 8
    Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc

    I have a friend who’s heavily in to the body modification scene. He already wants to get LEDs sub-dermally implanted (using an external power source – no I don’t know how that will work either). He’d better not see this!

  9. 9
    trollofreason

    Am I the only one potentially squicked out and troubled by this? I mean, it IS a natural-ish (or, at least, really cool) development of computer technology to find a way to comfortably implant them without our bodies, but I was hoping that they’d be used for more recreational or informational things. Like that little TV in Random Dent’s wrist. This thing, though? I dunno. While cool, and potentially extremely useful, I’ve read, watched, listened to, and played enough sci-fi to be wary about implants that automatically administer pharmaceuticals. The Penal Legions of WH40k immediately jump out at me, as does the entire sub-plot of Dues Ex: Human Revolution (which you think is the main plot, until you uncover the web of lies and secrecy (good game is good; buy it)).

    A laser pointer in my chest? Sign me up, and pretend to be Borg with my cousin’s kids! A TV or web browser in my nut sack? It’d give me a reason to lose enough weight to see it again! But a wafer-thin, potentially self-powering techno-bio-maestro in charge of my moods, immune system, AND it’s wi-fi capable and thus has the potential to be controlled by outside entities? That’s crossing a line, and I just told you that I’d happily have a TV in my balls.

  10. 10
    Crimson Clupeidae

    I don’ think we currently have the tech to be able to generate enough power to allow for a thermocouple power supply. However, we do have flexible thin sheet photovoltaics. If you don’t mind having some portion of your anatomy covered in PV cells, it might be workable, but it would obviously not be able to run 24/7, and it would probably need some kind of capacitance/battery ability for short durations.

  11. 11
    Crimson Clupeidae

    That’ll teach me to read before posting.

    Oooh…glucose batteries. Off to the google of all knowledge!

  12. 12
    cycleninja

    Peter F. Hamilton wrote about this very sort of thing in a couple of his science fiction works. Yet again, SF becoming reality.

  13. 13
    Callinectes

    Bring a tattoo “cable” up to the collar, where conductive strips connected to a watch battery can provide the power.

  14. 14
    Anthony K

    OMG! Best thing ever! I mean, it’s not like we’re on the fifth generation of iPhones and they still can’t get the fucking things to properly function as fucking phones or anything.

    I’m totally sure that iOS 17.82.FU won’t completely fuck up your tattoo and potentially render your hand and CNS useless or anything. (FtB itself never sends me to that “not quite the full site, not quite the mobile site, but completely useless in either case” page about 1⁄3 of the time. No, not at all, after how many years now?)

  15. 15
    anuran

    Do not want to beta test the RJ-45 jack in the back of the head.

    Seriously, imagine the possibilities for malware, hijacking and sabotage with ubiquitous implanted computing

  16. 16
    Travis

    Seriously, imagine the possibilities for malware, hijacking and sabotage with ubiquitous implanted computing

    Standard fare in cyberpunk. Just watch Ghost in the Shell. To be honest it is already a concern. My girlfriend has an insulin pump and people have hacked it already. It appears they have not put too much thought into security at this point.

  17. 17
    JJ831

    [W]e’re waiting for the development of a thin, flexible battery to power all this gadgetry

    Repeating for the sake of repeating. You could be talking about almost any piece of technology at the moment. Battery tech. It’s a pretty big limiting factor.

  18. 18
    abusedbypenguins

    Think how cool to have flashing lights under your clear plastic skull. Like Data only more so. Don’t get just piercings, get colored light piercings.

  19. 19
    Rich Woods

    @cycleninja #12:

    I was going to mention Peter F Hamilton too! Though how a human body can generate enough energy to power a force field without being hooked up to a fusion reactor is something I carefully glossed over…

    Brilliant storytelling, all the same. I’d happily recommend any of his novels to anyone who likes their space opera up close and personal. There are short stories which will do as tasters, for example Sonnie’s Edge, in the A Second Chance At Eden collection.

  20. 20
    anuran

    Though how a human body can generate enough energy to power a force field without being hooked up to a fusion reactor is something I carefully glossed over…

    Massive consumption of caffeine and sugar

  21. 21
    anuran

    Isn’t that how everyone powers theirs?

  22. 22
    PZ Myers

    #14, Anthony K:

    Where is your sense of adventure? We spend our lives fucking up our heads with all kinds of ingested/inhaled/injected reagents, this opens up a whole new range of ways to screw up our lives in interesting and exciting ways!

  23. 23
    larrylyons

    Cool this thing would more than replace my insulin pump, but do a much more nuanced delivery of insulin. Or consider systems used to treat schizophrenia, Tourette’s etc., this would have a major impact on people’s lives.

    I’m surprised that Medtronics or Lilly is not all over this like a cheap suit.

  24. 24
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Why not a thermocouple that uses body heat? It’s inexhaustible, or at least, when my iTattoo runs out of power, I won’t care.

    Since 99% of Californians are poikilothermic, that would severely limit its market potential.

  25. 25
    Anthony K

    We spend our lives fucking up our heads with all kinds of ingested/inhaled/injected reagents, this opens up a whole new range of ways to screw up our lives in interesting and exciting ways!

    Depends on whether you consider finding out you spent $600 for ’404 not found’ that much more interesting and exciting than finding out you spent $60 for a bag of oregano. And when’s the last time you bought a bottle of purportedly single malt scotch, only to find that it’s just water right now, but it’ll become a fine drink as soon as the next patch comes out and btw, the bottle accidentally came with a key allowing thieves to sneak in and empty your entire liquor cabinet but you should have been keeping backups in the fridge anyway?

  26. 26
    Jerry

    A wearable computer that goes on the surface, like tape? Maybe. A tattoo? Applied with needles? No way. As far as a computer port implant, with wires into my head or nerves? Between computer viruses and multidrug resistant viral & bacterial infections, it’s just a choice of nasty ways to die. No freaking way.

  27. 27
    Anthony K

    My bitter snark notwithstanding, there are all kinds of reasons to pursue this kind of technology, as per larrylyons’ comment 23, with the caveat noted by Travis in comment 16.

  28. 28
    chigau (違う)

    Whatever was in that bag, it wasn’t oregano.

  29. 29
    moarscienceplz

    @#24 Azkyroth

    Yes, I do require a jacket if the forecast is for temps below 70. Youse gotta problem wit dat? I assume you are of PZ’s ilk who lives in the land of road salt and snow blowers solely for the pleasure of boring the smart people who live in the sunbelt with tales of how miserable you’ve been this winter.
    ;-)

  30. 30
    Amphiox

    R. Sawyer had a novel where he speculated about a power supply that was essentially a miniaturized hydraulic generator implanted inside the carotid artery.

    Strikes me that this is really just a more sophisticated form of a nicotine of fentanyl patch, where instead f having a steady state continuous administration of the drug you get to have fancy electronics regulate the dosing rates. The individual can still just pull the patch off if he doesn’t want the thing putting stuff into him anymore.

    If one is worried about hacking, one can design a physical bottleneck in the part that actually administers the drug so the raye can never exceed a safe likit no matter what the electronics say. So as long as the electronics can’t actually reconfigure the physical components…

    You know what would be a great application for this technology? Contraception. Imagine a parch that could give you an entire month’s (or more) of OCP, with the option of giving the morning after pill dosages at the push of a button….

  31. 31
    Anthony K

    Whatever was in that bag, it wasn’t oregano.

    True. I have never bought oregano without intending to buy oregano and having it sold to me as such.

    (I cannot say that all my dealings with tech products and their purveyors have been so straightforward, honest, and productive.)

    @29 moarscienceplz: do you have to rub that shit in? I just saw more fucking snow blowing past my office window.

  32. 32
    Amphiox

    The main problem with implanted electronics with neural interfaces yadda yadda is of course that installation requires neurosurgery. And while such would certainly give me job security, how many people wpuld willing to undergo reieated brain surgery at a rate that matches the electronics obsolescence cycle.

    Wearable stuff will likely remain far more practical than the so-called cyborg-future. That way, whenyour tattoo-phone is bricked (cellophaned?) by some freak accident with a kitchen knife, or you want to upgrade to v4.1 you won’t need me to drill a hole in your skull to do it.

  33. 33
    Anthony K

    Imagine a parch that could give you an entire month’s (or more) of OCP

    OCP as in Omni Consumer Products as in the megacorporation that built ED-209 as detailed in Paul Verhoeven’s documentary RoboCop?! WTF?!

  34. 34
    Anthony K

    Look, I get that the next piece of neato! technology won’t be dysfunctional, hackable, surveillance-enabling, environmental-destroying crap produced by cartels by exploiting labour in developing markets, I really do.

    Or the technology after that. For sure.

  35. 35
    Nick Gotts

    how many people wpuld willing to undergo reieated brain surgery at a rate that matches the electronics obsolescence cycle. – Amphiox@32

    Quite a lot, would be my hunch. Just consider how many people are willing to be repeatedly injected with the most potent toxin known in order to avoid wrinkles. And the bizarre ubiquity of tatooing and facial piercings (I’m old enough to find it bizarre – in my young day mutter mutter grumble grumble…).

  36. 36
    Hank_Says

    Of course, being a Culture citizen (in my mind, at least), my first thought has been “oooh! Custom drug glands!”

    Viva Banks!

  37. 37
  38. 38
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Yes, I do require a jacket if the forecast is for temps below 70. Youse gotta problem wit dat? I assume you are of PZ’s ilk who lives in the land of road salt and snow blowers solely for the pleasure of boring the smart people who live in the sunbelt with tales of how miserable you’ve been this winter.

    Worse. I’m one of the people affected by 9 months of summer with 6 months total overlap of indoor thermostats being set to “anneal.”

  39. 39
    Turtles

    A solar panel is just another circuit. I’ll power it with a solar panel tattoo on my shiny head! At last, an advantage to being follically challenged!

  40. 40
    george gonzalez

    Uh, please re-read the article, especially the last sentence. They are nowhere near making what the headline claims. It’s not a tattoo, it’s a sticker. If they have a CPU and memory, then it’s just a silicon chip, probably bought over the counter. They do not yet have a power source, or a wi-fi link, nor are they likely to ever have one, due to the basic physics of transmitters and antennas. It takes a fair number of milliwatts to send a signal above the ambient noise level. They could just go out and buy a RFID chip, which will let the PR office put out another semi-breathless announcement.

Comments have been disabled.