Finally, Tattoos That Let You Control Objects with Your Mind

By | February 27, 2013

electronic-tattoo… Dr. Todd Coleman and fellow researchers at the University of California San Diego are up to, creating “electronic tattoos” capable of interfacing with your brain and wirelessly conveying your thoughts as commands to remote systems and devices. Using what he describes as an “ultrathin conformal” design, Coleman has been developing “foldable, stretchable electrode arrays” that can non-invasively pick up neural signals, EEG-style. Unlike a traditional EEG, which might involve a spaghetti-dinner’s worth of scalp-placed cabling and conductive gel, Coleman’s solution amounts to a tiny piece of pliable skin-like material less than the thickness of a human hair and houses “epidermal electronic” circuitry powered by solar cells or antennae, which also allow it to communicate wirelessly. That’s it up top, a stylin’ body mark that wouldn’t be out of place in a Neal Stephenson or William Gibson novel.

We first noticed Coleman’s work back in 2011, when it was angled more toward diagnostic medical research, the idea being that small, wearable, easily concealed sensors would make keeping tabs on someone’s biological data — say monitoring brain or heart activity — much easier. If you’ve ever worn a holter monitor, for instance, you know what a mess that can be, and while holter technology’s improved ergonomically over the years, imagine how much simpler it might be if you could just slap one of these tattoos on and have it wirelessly transmit information to something like a watch- or smartphone-based diagnostic app (which, in turn, would be capable of relaying that information back to someone else).

And that’s just the start. According to Txchnologist, Coleman and his team of researchers are actively working on creating electronic tattoos capable of manipulating external electronics like remote-control drones (so not really telekinesis, but as sci-fi writer Arthur C. Clarke said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”).

It gets even wilder. Imagine placing one of these electronic tattoos near your throat, where it might pick up on subvocal muscle movements. When you think about speaking, forming words in your mind, muscles in your throat and tongue actually move in extremely subtle ways undetectable without sensors. Add one of Coleman’s sensor-laced tattoos and not only might you be able to convert those movements into speech, the tattoos could actually relay words to someone (or something) else wirelessly. If your friend across the room has a smartphone capable of receiving the data, plugged into a pair of earbuds, they could actually hear your speech-related thoughts — pseudo-telepathy!

“We’ve demonstrated our sensors can pick up the electrical signals of muscle movements in the throat so that people can communicate just with thought,” says Coleman, adding that the tattoos could also be used to improve speech recognition by giving apps like Siri a subvocal leg up.

Again, the notion of remotely conveying speech or controlling objects with the power of your mind alone isn’t new, it’s the idea of creating a noninvasive interface sophisticated enough to measure biological activity accurately without clumsy intermediary cables and gels that’s groundbreaking. …

via Finally, Tattoos That Let You Control Objects with Your Mind | TIME.com.

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