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Video: Building an easier “smart tattoo”

07 November 2022

A new prototyping kit has been developed by Cornell University that will allow engineers and users with little experience to build on-skin interfaces — otherwise known as smart tattoos — quickly.

These on-skin interfaces are potentially a new way for sensing capabilities attached directly to the skin of an individual for healthcare or fashion or entertainment. However, these smart tattoos have long been lacking in the comfort and durability department.

“We’ve been working on this for years and I think we’ve finally figured out a lot of the technical challenges,” said Cindy (Hsin-Liu) Kao, assistant professor of human centered design at Cornell. “We wanted to create a modular approach to smart tattoos, to make them as straightforward as building Legos.”

The kit

Cornell University developed SkinKit as a plug-and-play system that aims to bring prototyping of smart tattoos to everyone including those with little or no technical expertise.

The fabrication of the kit is done with temporary tattoo paper, silicone textile stabilizer and water. This creates a multi-layer thin film structure called skin cloth. The layered material can be cut into desired shapes and fitted with electronics to perform a range of tasks.

“The wearer can easily attach them together and also detach them,” said Pin-Sung Ku, a Hybrid Body Lab member at Cornell. “Let’s say that today you want to use one of the sensors for certain purposes, but tomorrow you want it for something different. You can easily just detach them and reuse some of the modules to make a new device in minutes.”

The full research can be found in the journal Proceedings of the ACM on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies.

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