Functional tattoos

I really want to get a UV tattoo that "does something". Started trying to come up with ideas, and decided to start this as a catch-all thread for tattoo ideas that can be functional. What I've come up with so far:

Barcode, QR Code, or other data encoding. Bonus points for encoding a cloud storage URL so you can change what is actually linked while keeping the tattoo the same.

Markers for implants, present or future. Could be a way to indicate where to cut or inject, etc.

Visual aids such as a ruler, protractor, conversion chart, or similar. Can't imagine a way to make it visually appealing, though.

Maybe a UV reactive tattoo over an implanted LED in the right frequency range, to make a self-powered glowing tattoo? Could be a way to get more out of an implant like Circadia.

Anybody else have ideas for functional ink?


  • Im pretty sure that the barcode thing wouldnt work because i heard that the laser they use for scanning barcodes can damage the skin if you have tattoos.
  • @MidnightStar Not sure where you heard it , but barcode scanners have to comply with laser safety regulations. And besides that there are also scanners using LED's (especially modern handheld devices). Until you have some reference with scientific proof about skin damage from barcode scanners i'd put that aside as bogus.
  • I have programmed vision-based scanners and they don't necessarily need a light source at all.  The red glow is from LEDs of course and red is chosen because it increases contrast.  They are high speed cameras which rely on image processing to decipher the code.  Glorified web cams.

    The scanners which use lasers, like a grocery store scanner, use very low power, <5mW, lasers.  They will not damage skin or tattoos if they have not been tampered with.
  • Many people have gotten barcode tattoos that work, as well as some functioning QR codes and one guy who did a 3DS AR card image that worked.
  • I have 1D barcodes on my side over my ribs.  They were done by an artist who had never done barcodes before and they are NOT crisp. It was not as easy as he thought and I am pretty disappointed.  They would never scan.  If you want a scannable code please, please, please go to a reputable artist who has done it before.  That said, scanning technology is pretty robust and a quality scanner will read a code despite some distortion so I am behind this idea.
  • How to design a barcode tattoo that will scan:

  • edited July 2014
    Sooooo can we talk about this stuff? Has anybody ever seen it before? They claim it can be used as a permanent tattoo, and while I'm sure it's marketing glossing over technicalities, I am unable to contain my excitement right now.
  • lenghty discussion about magnetic and electric inks, ending with the same link to the nanosupermarket.
    conductive inks work fine when painted onto skin. I still have to see someone inventing a tattoo ink that conducts electricity without making electrical contact to your body (aka electrocuting yourself)
  • Well darn. My next thought is getting a circuit diagram inked as a permanent guide to temporarily wiring it up with this stuff as needed. Honestly though, I can't think of any useful circuits simple enough to work and desirable enough to have ever-present...
  • honestly, the new e-tattoos would be a safer bet for this. They come off if you want them too and with the right tech seem super easy adn cheap to produce. however again you need to first come up with a use for them. in theory you could couple them to magnetic implants or something else.
  • New Tattoos Produce Power From Sweat ... Hmm, this might be the reason I need to exercise more.

    Also if anybody wants to try one of VivaINK's new digital tattoos with their Moto X phone, I have a few spares.
  • @kjwx woah, I'd never seen those vivalnk ones, they are so cool (although I already do the same thing with my implanted rfid)

    I'd love to get one, let me know cost + shipping to .au
  • They look neat but ya an rfid does the same thing permanently. However if we could manufacture our own tattoos we could have them do what we like. all you really need is conductive ink that can be loaded into a printer cartridge. they sell temporary tattoo paper already for fairly cheap. just print out the design and slap it on. The trick i guess would be to have multiple "inks" so that you could fabricate more complex components.
  • Those VivaInk things are just NFC tags that you stick to your skin, no sorcery involved here. They might be a little better at staying stuck than the tags you can order in bulk online, but that's something you can easily play around with.
  • anyone have any material on how the tags are manufactured? maybe some detailed specs? I wanna try making one
  • I can probably get those details for you, @DrJaaz - I'm reviewing VivaINK's tattoos for work, comparing them with my own NFC implant. (Suspect I already know which will be more convenient but hey ...) Let me know what information you're after, and I'll hit their press representative up.

    @AmmonRa: PM me your address and I'll get a couple in the mail to you. For all the "mentoring" you've done for me, I wouldn't dream of charging you for postage. Plus it's only across the ditch.
  • edited August 2014
    Mainly just which chip they use and how much data it can store. i figured the rest out
  • edited August 2014
    just found this

    how come we don't do something like this or improve on the system. we could use it for info display even build sensor into it. And if this one is completely fake which i do not doubt, why don't we design something like this?
  • drjaaz: because that's not real. It was just an April fools joke.
  • @drjaaz That's an april fools joke from a few years back if you go to buy now it'll send you to a page about being pranked.  But to address simply why we can't do this.

    Hypothetically, if we could produce a canvas under the skin, it would either be too deep to show through the skin, or if some sort of elevating mechanism brought them close enough to the surface to be seen it would be doing damage to the dermis. Your skin would be perpetually irritated. 

    The best hope I've seen for something like this is a display that runs off a blood battery, and is still in the very very early stages of development.

    Or I know phillips is researching nanobots that come to the surface, but to say that this is anything beyond the theoretical realm would be disingenuous.

    The technology involved to do something like this, from what we know right now, is non existent, and would require advances in electronics or molecular nanotechnology (ie, bringing it out of being just field based on theory) that are almost certainly not available to us "backyard transhumanists".

    I'm not trying to shit on your parade, because this has been a topic of obsession for me as well, but I don't currently see anything that can be done about it at the current rate.

    All that being said we if we have any chance of being able to produce something for ourselves it will be this>

    And that's still a long shot.
  • edited August 2014
    Well as a concept it's pretty damn good. the blood battery is neat and it seems that it would function similair to e-ink. i may tinker with this.
  • and yes after all of 2 seconds I realized what i posted was a prank, before i even posted it, i was using it as an example of what could be done.
  • I just came across a link to the article about sweat-powered batteries, and was about to post it, then realised that kjwx had already done so!

    The cathode is platinum, which (currently) costs $1460 per oz. The output is 70µW per cm2. I'm pretty sure that this would get pretty expensive, pretty fast! What can run on 70-210µW?

    Or, rather than sweat, could you replace some of your gut flora with a species that produces lactic acid? Thinking about it, that's a terrible idea...
  • @drjaaz
    VivaINK preliminary specs:
    • Adhesive Lifetime: Approximately 5 days. Varies with skin type and activity level.
    • Diameter: 24.13mm
    • Thickness: 160µm
    • Unlock Radius: 10mm
  • I'd seen that moodinq prank too and thought it'd be feasible. And actually any backlit display would work it would eat power like none other but the technology it definitely available. as far as electronics go it wouldn't even be that hard of a design. the issue would be the bio-coating (clear of course) and biological issues such as restricting cell access to nutrients, etc over a large area plus all of the typical issues. Still, that just means there's more planning to be done, doesn't mean that it's impossible.
  • Right so with that said, why not try and sort it out? If we could do it I think it could lend some credibility to the group and lead to the way to even bigger ideas. So with that said, why not get working? For the actual screen, e ink seemed like the best idea since you only have to power it once to change the display, but it's not back lit. A flexible oled could also work but getting your hands on one is difficult at the moment but that should change within a year. Power could either come from some version of a blood battery or from an external charging circuit and internal battery. if you went with the blood battery approach it could trickle charge it when not in use. I think the clear biocompatible coating may be the harder part though as im not familiar with any.
  • edited August 2014
    I think a standard inductively charged battery would be the way to go for this, blood and sweat powered are just too difficult for the moment...we should do some parts searching and find a screen that could be compatible..backlit e-ink would be great but like you said flexible oled would work also, size and power usage are main factors. Also, we'll have to figure out exactly how strong the backlighting would have to be.Tim Cannon currently has a device with led's implanted (Circadia) if we can reach him and get the size and power input to the led to calculate output strength then measure strength of light showing through the skin we could get an idea of skin transparency....

    EDIT: Due to the considerations I mentioned above such as restricting blood flow/nutrient access to too large of any area I'm thinking a fairly small screen might best, like no larger than Cannon's implant surface area since he doesn't seem to be having complications yet...time will tell for all of this though.
  • IIRC, Tim took out the Circadia earlier this year due to complications. My word is by no means gospel on this matter though, so you should check around. He's on this forum, though I cannot remember his username.
  • I'll look into it dokclaw, and I wouldn't be surprised in the least...between the tight, hard corners and overall surface area of the implant I assumed something would come up...if it did get taken out I hope Tim was okay.
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