If you’re interacting with a computer, traditionally, you push buttons on a keyboard, or perhaps you use a touchscreen or mouse. What if these buttons actually were your hands? This is the goal of Martin Weigel’s “SkinMarks” project team at Saarland University in Saarbrücken, Germany, who have collaborated with Google to design a way to transform wrinkles, freckles, and other body features into touch-sensitive controls for your devices.
SkinMarks are ultra-thin electronic temporary tattoos that are applied to the skin with water, then can be rubbed off after a few days. As seen in the video here, they are quite versatile, able to act as a button, slider and visual display, as well as take signals via deformation (squeezing).
For instance, swiping the side of a straightened index finger could adjust your phone’s volume; however, bending that finger could turn it into a play/pause button instead. In another example, tattoos on the knuckles could act as four buttons when your hand is making a fist, but then function as one long slider when your fingers are extended.
Additionally, some are electroluminescent, allowing for social media and other app notifications directly on your skin! The team even placed a heart-shaped tattoo over a birthmark that can glow when a loved one is available, and call that person’s phone when touched.
Currently, the setup is powered by an Arduino Nano, but as they’re able to reduce the size of the entire system, the potential uses are very exciting! You can see it in action below, and read the project’s paper here.