Accessories seem to be the buzz word in the field of technology today. From smartwatches to smart glasses, inducing electronic abilities into everyday objects appears to be priority numero uno for tech giants in the industry. A radical new advancement in the field of electronic tattoos could render these bulky accessories obsolete over the next few years, allowing us to control our smartphones in previously unimaginable ways.

Making a mark

Saarland University and Google have put their best and brightest minds together in order to fashion a brand new accessory for your phones.

An electronic tattoo, currently called SkinMarks, can now be used to operate various features on your smartphone without the use of any external devices whatsoever. These SkinMarks are thinner than one millimeter, and can be placed on any part of your body that you deem fit.

Like most temporary tattoos, SkinMark will also be transferred onto your body using water and will last a couple of days before wearing off. During this period however, this tattoo will act as a control device for your smartphone and can be programmed to work in numerous ways. Squeezing your knuckle, for example, could be your command for answering a call if the tattoo is on your knuckle. You can also use the same tattoo to adjust your volume levels by sliding your fingers over the tattoo.

According to Martin Weigel from Saarland University, another application for these e-tattoos could involve placing the print over parts of your body you are more familiar with. He says “People intuitively know the location of their own bumps and birthmarks, which makes them ideal locations for touch-sensitive buttons”.

The tech behind the mech

Saarland and Google managed to bring this amazing technology to life by using conductive ink to print the necessary wiring onto the temporary paper that comprises the tattoo. The millimetre wide tattoo also accounts for the stretching and bending of human skin and is compatible with the many changes that occur on the skin surface.

At this point, this technology is only compatible with computers, but using microcontrollers to send signals to your smartphones should enable the researchers to quickly adapt this feature for smartphones.

In the near future, our phones could well end up not seeing the light of day for extended periods, because the complete functioning of our devices could be available at our fingertips, quite literally!