DuoSkin: Tattoo-like devices print tech on skin

Using gold leaf metal, MIT researchers are placing customised, tattoo-like interfaces directly onto the skin of the user.

DuoSkin enhances the aesthetics of existing metallic jewelry-like tattoos by embedding LEDs in silver leaf traces. (Photo: Jimmy Day)

Temporary metallic tattoos are used all around the world to enhance the wearer’s appearance, express individuality and complement any look. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are taking the aesthetically pleasing designs a step further by integrating them with electronic devices, creating on-skin interfaces that can function as a trackpad, display or wireless communication tag.

Imagine scrolling through an on-screen display by running your finger across your arm or presenting your movie tickets by having an usher scan your wrist. PhD student Hsin-Liu (Cindy) Kao believes DuoSkin technology will be available at our local tattoo studios in not too distant future. “These tattoos enable anyone to create interfaces directly onto their skin,” says Kao.

DuoSkin’s three-step fabrication process

Inspired by flash tattoos, the designs are made using gold leaf, a cheap skin-friendly material. In the video, Kao explains that the temporary interface can be made using simple graphic design software. Once the circuit is created, it is printed using a cheap vinyl cutter before it the gold leaf is layered on top. Watch the video to learn more: