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Who's calling? Your tattoo is vibrating

Who's calling? Your tattoo is vibrating

Posting in Design

Could a magnetic, vibrating tattoo alert you to calls and messages in the future?

Finnish mobile company Nokia has filed a patent application describing the idea of 'magnetic tattoos' that would sense when your mobile phone is ringing and alert you through skin vibrations.

According to the application filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the 'haptic tattoos' would be created by stamping or spraying 'ferromagnetic' material -- such as an ink that contained magnetic properties -- on to skin and then pairing the design with a mobile device.

In the patent application, Cambridge-based Zoran Radivojevic is listed as the lead inventor. The abstract of the patent reads:

'In accordance with an example embodiment of the present invention, an apparatus comprises: a material attachable to skin, the material capable of detecting a magnetic field and transferring a perceivable stimulus to the skin, wherein the perceivable stimulus relates to the magnetic field.'

If you received a call or text message, then the tattoo would react through different sets of vibrations or pulses. For example, you could receive one 'jolt' for a text message, or a string of pulses for a phone call.

The magnetic marks could also potentially be used as an 'identity check'. If a user creates a 'specific magnetic impedance' -- in other words, a specific gesture or movement that alters the magnetic sensors -- then a kind of magnetic fingerprint is formed. This, in turn, can be used to identify a user in the same manner as a smartphone's PIN code.

The patent suggests that one of these magnetic marks could be attached to an arm, fingernail, or other parts of the body. However, not only does the patent include the idea of material which is attachable to skin, but also the use of ferromagnetic ink to create permanent tattoos.

In the application, Nokia says that in terms of the skin-based tattoos:

"Prior to using the ferromagnetic inks for attaching to human skin, the ink material may be exposed to elevated temperatures to cause demagnetization. Such demagnetized ink is then used for creating an image by dispersing the ink material on or under the skin to make a functional, tattoo like image.

Once the apparatus is settled and the skin cured, the user with the functional image may use permanent magnets to magnetize the functional image on the skin again."

The design itself would apparently be the user's choice, and would be no different to getting a normal tattoo -- except the ink would be special. Once the tattoo has been applied,then the design would need to be 'magnetized' by coming in to contact with an external magnet. This would result in enhanced sensitivity to magnetic fields, and would work in the same manner as the attachable version of the haptic design.

Only once the skin has healed would the device 'pairing' become activated. The device in question, however, would have to be capable of emitting different magnetic fields in order to alert the inks.

Nokia has not commented on whether it intends to follow up its patent application with further research.

Image credit: Jonas Strandell

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Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure