Tattoo Wearables: Intersection of Medicine, Tech, and Art

digital tattoo medical technology

The growth of tattoo wearables is exciting several industries, most notably art, technology, and medicine. All three have played a role in the development of these smart tattoos, whose designs are infused with electronic circuits that can relate information or power external devices. This art/technology has all kinds of applications, the most important of which is medicine. Tattoo wearables can analyze a wearer’s body and report physical aberrations, making people a little bit healthier and doctors’ work a little bit easier.

The Technology of Tattoo Wearables

Tattoo wearables that relate information must be made of flexible material that can conduct electricity. Conductive ink or conductive film have long been the standard technology in e-tattoos. The latter material is used in LogicInk’s UV, which means that this tattoo, and others made from such material, are non-invasive. Wearers need not be poked and risk infection and nerve damage. Non-invasiveness is a characteristic that e-tattoo designers are maintaining even as the technology gets better. Researchers at Carnegie Melon University (CMU) developed an e-tattoo that uses silver nanoparticles dipped in a liquid metal alloy to power various devices. This technology can turn tattoos into touchpads, functional phones, and even video players.

Medical Applications for Tattoo Wearables

Scientists, doctors, and engineers are building on CMU’s technology by finding new applications in the healthcare sector – and the discoveries may never stop. University of California, San Diego engineers created a tattoo breathalyzer. Not only does it detect ethanol in a wearer’s sweat, it sends the data to their smartphone via Bluetooth. Researchers at Chaotic Moon Studios developed Tech Tats which can determine wearer’s vital information and may therefore replace doctor checkups. A Seoul National University research team created e-tattoos that not only monitor the pH/chemical levels of diabetic wearers, but injects medicine as needed. And these are just the tattoo wearables that have been released. More amazing work is being done behind the scenes.

Tattoo Wearables and COVID-19

Perhaps this behind the scene work is consisting, at least in part, of infectious disease prevention. At some point in the future, tattoo wearables may be able to join the fight against contagions like COVID-19. Wearables that detect pathogens are already in the planning stage (even Fitbits can predict the flu!). It is therefore not improbable that infectious disease detectors may soon come in wearable form. Also worth noting is that tattoos themselves can trasmit infectious diseases, so noninvasive tattoo wearables are inherently safer than their needled counterparts.

The Art of Tattoo Wearables

As of now, e-tattoos have fairly basic designs. The designs are more practical than aesthetic, but there’s still an artistic component in their development. The LogicInk UV, a tattoo wearable created by the San Francisco start-up by the same name, is a small white circle with an incomplete blue circle around it, almost like an “on” button icon. The small circle turns pink when subjected to UV rays, and the large circle begins filling up with pink as UV rays accumulate. When the latter is fully pink, the tattoo’s wearer has hit their UV limit for the day. LogicInk’s E Roon Kang wished to combine readability, scientific accuracy, and attractiveness when he designed the tattoo. This mentality is fueling the industry and resulting in cooler designs and technology.

Tattoo wearables are the darlings of multiple industries. Artists, engineers, and medical professionals are all contributing to the rising popularity of e-tattoos and their increasing importance in the healthcare field. Potentially life-saving tattoo wearables include UV detectors, breathalyzers, oximeters, and glucose monitors.


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