Since the beginning of the Quantified Self Movement, designers have struggled to create wearable tech that people actually want to wear, and that doesn’t make the wearer look like a raging Glasshole. With their latest project, called Tech Tats, Austin-based software design firm Chaotic Moon takes a creative new approach, turning self-quantifying gadgets into cyberpunk body art.
Tech Tats are temporary tattoos made of electroconductive tattoo paint embedded with an ATiny85 microcontroller. When placed on human skin, the gadget receives data from temperature sensors to monitor vital health functions. By connecting to a smartphone app via Bluetooth Low Energy, they can send real-time medical data to doctors, monitoring temperature, sweat conductance, heart rate, hydration levels, and more.
Unlike Fitbits and Jawbones and other wearable devices currently on the market, Tech Tats are unobtrusive, weightless, and easily hidden under clothing. Aesthetically, there’s potential to make these as original and creative as any non-electronic tattoo design. Chaotic Moon has dubbed these devices “biowearables” — “wearable technology that isn’t just, say, strapped to the user’s wrist, but interacts with their wrist,” as they write on their website. “In other words, you’re eliminating clunky, expensive devices with a low-interference, low-cost, and low-hassle alternative, and using the user’s skin as the interface. It’s technology that is, in a sense, part of the user.” Basically, we’re all that much closer to becoming full-on cyborgs.
There are myriad potential uses for this technology in various industries. Chaotic Moon hopes that the use of Tech Tats could someday replace the time-consuming yearly physical at a doctor’s office — instead, you could just wear this tattoo for an hour or so while it takes all your vitals and sends them to your physician. They could also be of use in the military — Tech Tats identify pathogens in a soldier’s body, detect when soldiers are injured or stressed, or identify poisons in the air. And they could transform banking, too, essentially replacing wallets by storing credit card information on your skin instead of your vulnerable pocket or purse. They could authorize payments through a system like Apple Pay, using a tap-to-pay, fingerprint style method.
The design is currently in prototype stages, but according to TechCrunch, Chaotic Moon is currently in talks with some unnamed strategic partners to take the concept to market.