For years we have been hearing all sorts of promises about futuristic tattoos that are right around the corner. It’s the start of a new year, and it seems like the perfect time to check in on these tattoos and see how far they’ve come.
Some of the really far out ideas are, at best, a distant reality. Such as Emerge Interactive’s E-Ink tattoo:
While this turned out to be nothing but an April Fool’s day prank, there are a lot of cool innovations that are being tested and/or introduced today.
The future of tattoo inks
Over the past year, questions about tattoo ink safety were raised. As a result, tattoo ink manufacturers are putting the focus on the quality of ingredients in 2018. The best shops already only purchase from reputable ink dealers. And many tattoo artists are requesting government regulations on tattoo inks. In some countries, like Spain, such regulations are already in place.
Ink quality is not the only focus for the future of tattoo inks. People are always on the lookout for inks that could change the business or offer cool new looks.
For those who love tattoos, but not their permanence, there are continued advances in disappearing tattoos. Tattoo purists may not view these as true tattoos. But they are an opportunity for people who wouldn’t get a tattoo otherwise.
A number of brands have come out with one year, four year, or five year tattoos. These tattoos are applied just like a regular tattoo, but with ink that is designed to disappear naturally. The benefits are a professional looking tattoo where no one can ask you, “how will that look to your grandchildren?”
However, there are downsides. For one, the one year, four year, and five year designations are estimates. They can sometimes last longer or shorter than intended. As well, the appearance of the tattoo gets worse over time. It begins to fade naturally and it’s hard to be sure how long your tattoo will still look its best.
Admittedly, these short-term tattoos have come a long way, and it will be interesting to see how they improve over the next few years.
So far, this is the case is not strong for easy removal inks. While they are easy to remove, they are not yet made to last. For now, laser tattoo removal is generally the best solution when you want to swap out your ink
There is another type of disappearing tattoos, ones that only show up in the dark. Well, sort of. Glow-in-the-dark tattoos are a bit of a misnomer. They’re actually UV tattoos that show up under a blue light.
While they aren’t a totally new type of ink, they are definitely futuristic looking and a sure way to stand out at the club. The drawback is that they are more likely to be rejected by your body than standard tattoo inks. As a result, many tattoo shops refuse to offer them.
Tattoo ink for diabetics
Researchers at Harvard and MIT created biosensitive inks that can be tattooed on the body. These would be convenient for diabetics as they ink changes colours to let you know if glucose levels are too high or too low.
While it sounds like a far off technology, scientists claim the kinks are worked out and it is ready for both short-term and long-term use. While it is not readily available to the public yet, it is something that could be accessible as early as this year.
Modern culture is obsessed with nostalgia. So it’s really no surprise that some of the emerging tattoo techniques aren’t new at all.
Skin stitching tattoos are an indigenous tattoo style and technique. Today, people are bringing back this lost art form. The name is pretty accurate for the process. A needle and ink-soaked thread are used to create permanent stitching patterns on the skin. The result is a cool and unique looking tattoo.
Some people who like the style are seeking it through standard modern tattoo practices. The reason for this are twofold:
There are not many places where you can get skin stitching done.
Normally, the goal is to prevent tattoo scarring. But with scarification, the scar is the tattoo. Scarification is a very old technique that was used for a wide variety of purposes - anything from a ritual or rite of passage to a status sign.
Today, scarification is starting to make an appearance in Canada. It provides a unique look and is said to release a big endorphin rush, resulting in a euphoric state. The scars made by branding or cutting and are aggravated at intervals to make them scar more.
Scarification tattoos can be very striking and complex designs:
There are definite concerns with scarification as body art. The sanitary concerns of a regular tattoo are enhanced as you are much more prone to infection and blood borne disease.
Futuristic tattoo technology
As we can see from some of these emerging and reemerging tattoo techniques, tattoo technology has come a long way. Tools are more precise, consistent, reliable, and sanitary. Some companies are going even further with even more advanced tattoo technology.
While most love the experience of getting inked by a tattoo artist, 3D printed tattoos have been making their mark the past couple of years. French company, Appropriate Audiences, converted a 3D printer into a mechanical tattoo artist called Tatoué.
The 3D printer has become more impressive over time. The device now uses sensors to measure contours and can determine the texture of skin. The Appropriate Audiences team has also been working with tattoo artists to refine techniques. As a result, Tatoué is capable of delivering better tattoos year after year.
So far, they are no match for the skill of a human tattoo artist. But for the tech lover, this is definitely a cool tattoo.
Interactive & digital tattoos
Every year, we hear about incredible ideas for interactive and digital tattoos. Most of the time they aren’t quite there yet. We take a look at what people are attempting, and what the closest equivalents currently are.
At the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show a smart tattoo was displayed that is to release in mid-summer:
A lot of companies are attempting this concept of tattoos that replace wearable technology. So far most of them are not true tattoos, but something that is placed temporarily on your skin. They’re still pretty cool, but aren’t quite there yet.
Still, improvements over recent years have come a long way. And the addition of a gesture controls for VR offers new potential for digital tattoos.
Much of the current technological limitations can be overcome with the use of your smartphone. For instance, the animated tattoos promised in that first Emerge Interactive video may not be possible. But, it is possible to bring tattoos to life on your phone, as demonstrated by the Polaxis app:
Another cool advancement in interactive tattoos using smartphone apps is soundwave tattoos. Skin Motion has released tattoos that capture an audio file. When the app scans the tattoo, the soundwave plays aloud.
This is cool for two reasons:
It’s an interactive tattoo that plays sound.
It demonstrates the capability of tattoos to store and share information digitally.
The future of tattoos
The future of tattoos has a lot of promise to offer. No matter what advances occur, the traditional tattoo experience will always be our favourite. And we expect, will remain the most commonly sought. But we’re always excited to see and test out the latest tattoo innovations.