What if there was a tattoo that could potentially detect poisons in the air, pathogens in a soldier’s body, or identify when they are hurt or stressed? It may sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, but this technology is actually right around the corner!
Getting Inked For Your Health
The company Chaotic Moon recently revealed their latest creation in the field of biowearables: electronic tattoos (or tech tats). Like a temporary tattoo, these biosensors are placed on the skin — and they use the skin itself as an interface. Tech tats are made of electroconductive paint and circuitry components that work together to collect, store, and send bio data. As reported in PSFK, “The tattoo includes an ATiny85 microcontroller that receives data from temperature sensors to monitor the wearer’s vitals.” Since they're so small, easy to wear, and remain on the body 24/7, tech tats could radically change how we monitor our health.
Currently, most of us monitor our health with biannual routine checkups with our primary caregivers — and many people don't even do this. Lack of doctor access, aversion to hospitals, or just plain laziness keeps many people away from a doctor unless they're sick or injured. This significantly drives up health care costs and makes preventative care very difficult.
Tech tattoos have the power to replace a physical exam because they can routinely send health data to our doctors, who can quickly review the results and have the patient come in for an appointment if they see something unusual. They can also send the data to the wearer's smartphone, so the user can have instant access to the same health data that their doctor can view.
This technology could allow us to easy spot early signs of illness or disease, which is vital because early detection is one of the most important ways to prevent disease. All too often, many serious or even fatal conditions could have easily been cured if they had been spotted sooner.
Tech Tats In Our Daily Lives
The potential applications of tech tattoos go beyond the health care system — they could also be used in the banking industry. Instead of carrying physical wallets, people can use tech tats to store their identification and credit card information and pay for items. You may even be able to scan them like a QR code.
Just a few years ago, if a child came home with a tattoo, their parents would probably ship them off to boarding school. Now, protective moms and dads might be lining up to ink their little ones.
The monitoring capabilities of tech tats could also be used by parents to keep track of their child, especially at crowded, public events like a concert or theme park. The advantages of a tech tats over a tracking app or even piece of jewelry is that the child can't take it off or lose it. Parental monitoring apps won't do much good if the child has lost their phone or removed a necklace that has a built-in GPS tracker. Now, parents could always have peace of mind when it comes to the whereabouts of their little ones.
From Salty Sea Dogs To Soldiers And Sick People — The Evolution Of Tattoos
"Your necklace may break, the fau tree may burst, but my tattooing is indestructible. It is an everlasting gem that you will take into your grave."
This verse from a traditional Polynesian tattoo artist’s song expresses a simple truth: the art of tattooing is one of the oldest body art modification traditions in history. Tattooing first emerged in the Polynesian islands almost 2,000 years ago. It was an extremely long, painful process with deeply significant religious and cultural significance.
Tattooing was a lifelong craft that was passed down from father to son, and tattoo artists, known as tufugas, were revered as skilled craftsmen who played an important role in preserving the history and cultural identity of the people in their communities. A typical tattoo session lasted an entire day, or until the person could no longer withstand the pain and would resume at dawn the next day. The tattoo was tapped by hand into the person's skin and could take up to a year to fully heal. Anyone who shied away from tattooing, or who could not endure the pain and left their tattoos unfinished, were seen as outcasts in the community. An incomplete tattoo was viewed as a mark of shame that the person would have to live with for the rest of their life.
Tattooing Moves West
Tattooing remained a relatively isolated practice that was limited to the islands for many years. It wasn't until sailors began exploring the Pacific Islands that the artform made its way to the west. It is believed that the first instance of sailor tattoos emerged when Captain James Cook came across the Maori of the South Pacific, and his crew decided to get tattoos as "souvenirs" of their visit.
Sailor tattoos also carried deeply significant meaning for those who wore them. They were a way for sailors to document and record their travels around the world or significant life events. They also represented naval hierarchy, rank, status. Since sailors are a notoriously suspicious group, many of the iconic images we've come to associate with the sailor tattoo are symbols that the sailors believed would keep them safe while out at sea.
Imagery of animals that can't swim (like pigs and hens) were often tattooed on sailors because of an old superstition that if they were ever in a shipwreck, God would look down and see animals that couldn't swim and place them on land. The North Star is also an iconic image symbolizing how to find their way home should they get lost out at sea.
Since then, tattoos have evolved from a rebellious, counter-culture expression to a more mainstream means of self-expression. The reasons behind why people get a tattoo have evolved and changed over the years, but one common thread unites them — tattoos are meant to convey something significant about the person wearing them. They are forms of art, and they serve a purely aesthetic purpose.
But with new "tech tattoos" now on the scene, body art just got a whole lot more pragmatic. The tech tat project is still in its prototype stages, but the company hopes to bring this exciting new technology to the general public in the near future.
Check out Chaotic Moon's video on tech tats!