When I was coming up, the only people who got tattoos were bikers, prisoners, or gang members. Of course, times have changed. It seems everyone has a tattoo now. And even my 15-year-old daughter wants one (Me: “Uh, no.”) But…I almost have to say yes to a dattoo. What is a dattoo, you ask? Read on…
Imagine your skin as an interface platform that you can program and choose which tools it can become—microphone, camera, speaker, phone, calculator. The list goes on. Other functionalities could include nanosensors, pattern and image recognition, education applications, flexible organic light-emitting diodes, cyborg components, and interactive touch reading (think Braille). And your body would power that platform by transferring its own energy to the processing device.
Harrison, Tan, and Morris of the Human–Computer Interaction Institute and Microsoft Research have developed Skinput, a process by which your body can be used as a touchscreen device or your fingers as buttons on a controller (https://www.chrisharrison.net/projects/skinput/SkinputHarrison.pdf).
To get a dattoo, you would access an online design portal that would allow you to view, test drive, and select a processing device that you print onto your skin or clothes. You could even program its appearance. Think of all the external devices that you could replace, such as smart phones, tablets, and laptops. There would be no need for separate physical space, surfaces, or energy sources that these devices require. With functionality only a tap away, your multitasking capabilities would be expanded exponentially.
And there’s no need to worry about permanence, as with a regular tattoo. Dattoos could be washed off at the end of the day. The user would set the lifespan of the dattoo, for as long or as short as desired. For example, if you were taking a trip to Europe, you could print out a specialized dattoo to quickly calculate exchange rates or offer translation in Italian.
Dattoos also read your DNA, which allows them to serve as unique identifiers in cyberspace or for security systems. No more wearing those annoying key cards around your neck.
You could also communicate with others across the globe through dattoos. Perhaps instead of phone numbers, we would use DNA sequences to reach others.
Of course, science fiction writers had already envisioned this capability years ago. In Steel Beach by John Varley, which was released in 1984, he wrote, “I snapped the fingers of my left hand…Three rows of four colored dots appeared on the heel of my left hand. By pressing the dots in different combinations with my fingertips I was able to write the story in shorthand…”
In my book, Cog, my protagonist, Nicholle, pays for a drink at a bar by tapping her thumb to her temple. Such technology would allow anyone to forgo having to carry around a debit card, fob, checkbook, or even cash.
It seems that science is finally catching up more quickly with science fiction than in decades past. SF writers are constantly having to outpace the next technological breakthrough. So while we wait for faster-than-light travel or teleportation to be discovered, we can at least anticipate skin surface interface in the coming years. But remember: Don’t give out your DNA to just anyone.