by Carey Dunne / November 24, 2015
“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.”
HUMAN CIRCUIT BOARDS
by Sarah Buhr / Nov 23, 2015
“The future of wearables could be inked on your skin. Chaotic Moon, a software design and development firm based in Austin, Texas, is developing a high-tech tattoo made of components and conductive paint to create circuitry to basically turn you into a cyborg…er collect health and other biometric data from your body. Chaotic Moon’s tattoo kit is in the nascent prototype stage right now, but CEO Ben Lamm told me it will be able to collect and upload health and informational data, much like Jawbone or the Apple Watch and send it to medical staff – or maybe even the military. “This is the new wearable,” Lamm told TechCrunch. “The future of wearables is biowearables. This is not something that can be easily removed like a Fitbit. It can be underneath a flack jacket, directly on the skin to be collecting this data and being reported back,” Lamm said of military applications.
The tattoo is temporary and washes off much like a temporary fashion tattoo. According to Chaotic Moon, the tatt will have the ability to monitor body temperature and detect if someone is stressed based on sweat, heart rate and hydration level information uploaded via Bluetooth or location-based low-frequency mesh networks like those used for apps like Jott or Firechat. He also mentioned using the tattoos for location-tracking during concerts or for keeping track of your kid at an amusement park. Some of the attraction for military use could include the tech tatts potentially detecting poisons in the air, pathogens in a soldier’s body, or identifying when they are hurt or stressed. “It’s an eco-friendly, non-invasive use of a platform that basically turns you into a human circuit board.”
Biometric tatts are promising, but not original. Cyberpunks, or grinders as they are sometimes called, form a strange and fascinating subculture of folks who like to manipulate their bodies with technological implants. While much of the grinder culture centers on cutting themselves open and surgically installing magnets, RFID chips, and other components for biohacking purposes, there’s been some small rumblings on the subject of biometric tattoos. Tim Cannon, who heads Grindhouse Wetware, a startup implanting open source RFID chips inside the human body to do things like open your front door or turn on your car, said he’s familiar with the concept. “Yeah, I have seen some stick on NFC stuff,” Cannon told me in an exchange over Facebook about the idea. He’s heard of a few smaller outfits working on biometric tattoo technology, but not anything serious just yet. He also mentioned attempts to create a more permanent biometric tattoo for constant monitoring and tracking, but that the ink wasn’t deemed safe to do that with humans for now.
While permanent tracker ink no doubt poses its own set of issues, the opportunity to track humans on even a temporary basis, presumably comes with the possibility of new privacy and medical regulations as well. Chaotic Moon is just creating the product and will leave all that up to whoever buys or implements the technology, according to Lamm. “At the end of the day, there’s all sorts of firms out there like cell phone companies and drug companies and medical device companies that work through those processes,” he told TechCrunch. “For us, we’re trying to start a conversation around ‘hey you’ve already had these types of data collection components on your body.’ A lot of times they are big, they are bulky and they can be limiting. Now we’re looking at changing and evolving with these other types of conductive ink.”
And to that point, there are already plenty of devices out there one could put on their body to monitor activity and upload biometric data. The U.S. government has reportedly explored the grinder path with permanent implantations in a collaboration project with DARPA. Lamm believes temporary is the better route to data collection. The tattoo kits would presumably be cheaper, less invasive than cutting soldiers open, and less annoying than wearables today as people could stick them on and go about their day instead of needing to remember to charge something and put it on. Lamm couldn’t name names, but he did say Chaotic Moon was already in talks with a few strategic partners to take this concept to market. “We’re looking at this as a human circuit board and the human body as a platform that we can build on top of,” Lamm said. He also mentioned that while the tech tats are just a prototype for now, the focus at his studio is on the next wave of tech for clients. Lamon was hopeful on the prospects of a third-party partner to bring these tats to market soon.”
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SEWABLE CIRCUIT BOARDS