Nokia has idea for tattoo technology

May 25, 2012 8:36:13 PM PDT
Whether they are smartphones or tablets, many of us are more attached to our devices than ever. The technology is changing so fast too. Now, there is a way to let your body receive signals from your cellphone.

It's been called innovative, scary and "science fiction come true." A major cellphone manufacturer is developing a tattoo for cellphone users that literally could let you become a part of your phone.

The Borg creatures from "Star Trek" depicts the frightening notion of humans turning into robots. Now, maybe it's not so farfetched.

"It's the beginning of the convergence of human beings and their technology, this co-evolution of technology and humans," said futurist and high tech author James Canton.

Canton is talking about an intriguing new technology proposed by cellphone giant Nokia. The company has applied for a patent some say is part of our emerging future and others see as plain creepy.

"You will be able to have a body experience in receiving emails or being able to make phone calls," said Canton.

Nokia's invention is a tattoo attached to your skin that would vibrate when you receive calls, emails, messages or alerts on your cellphone. A diagram shows how a signal from your phone would beam magnetic fields to the iron-based tattoo on your skin. The patent says it may be used to alert you to a message, phone call, alarm or launch an application.

"We will be living in a blended reality where information and biology merge," said Canton.

Canton says this isn't really that extreme. We are already plugged to our devices. They talk to us, show us video, play back sound. Why not touch us too?

"What if you could reach across the world and hug your husband or wife when that person is half way around the globe?" said Stanford professor Jeremy Bailenson.

Bailenson is a researcher at Stanford University's Virtual Human Interaction Laboratory. He's already working on devices that can transmit touch through computers. One he showed us lets users send a signal to a remote location and actually tickle a baby at the other end.

Bailenson says physical sensation is the next step in connecting humans through machines.

"The popularity of social networking, the obsessive texting that goes on, we know that people like this digital connectedness. It's inevitable that we enhance this by giving someone a sense of touch," said Bailenson.

Most consumers we spoke with were uneasy about being tattooed to their cellphones.

"I think it's pretty terrifying," said Solana Crawford from Boulder, Co.

"I don't want to become a Cyborg, half man, half robot you know?" Zach Dunlop from Boulder, Co.

"It's just too close to my body," said another woman.

So we came to a place where tattoos are already popular, a tattoo parlor. What if they could receive calls too?

"It would just irritate me having a buzz in my skin," said Elyse Weidner.

Weidner suffers for a tattoo, but wouldn't want it to start vibrating with every Facebook alert.

"I would feel like a robot or something," said Weidner.

Everyone here had a phone and a tattoo, yet no one wanted to connect them.

"There's a dark side for every good technology," said Canton.

Already futurists are thinking about how computer hackers and telemarketers might try to misuse such a technology.

"There will be people that will figure out how to mine information that's inside of our bodies and to be able to even try to control it, and that could happen. I'll forecast," said Canton.

We asked Nokia how it planned to use this technology. The company said it's against its policy to discuss its inventions, and for now this is "just an idea."

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