Cyberpunk Review » Electronic Ink: LED Tattoos Implanted by Silk

November 21, 2009

Electronic Ink: LED Tattoos Implanted by Silk

Sources: Wired, H+, MIT Technology Review

A demonstration from Philips Electronics showing the possibilities of implanted LED “tattoos.” Pretty kinky, but there are already practical applications being considered.


The Illustrated Man. Tattoos have mostly been static graphics, limited in their usefulness in communication certain info. But researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have now come up with LED tattoos that can turn your skin into a living screen. And to help get this tech inside you, the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana have found a way to use silk to implant the circuits.

I initially reported on the silk implantation in the forums, while Kenryouku_One gets props for the follow up on how the tech is being used to implant the LEDs. Meanwhile, likens this technical cyber-marriage to Ray Bradbury’s book about a man with animated tattoos covering his body. Now I need to find this book and review it for you…


A silky entry. Why silk to implant electronics? From Technology Review:

By building thin, flexible silicon electronics on silk substrates, researchers have made electronics that almost completely dissolve inside the body. So far the research group has demonstrated arrays of transistors made on thin films of silk. While electronics must usually be encased to protect them from the body, these electronics don’t need protection, and the silk means the electronics conform to biological tissue. The silk melts away over time and the thin silicon circuits left behind don’t cause irritation because they are just nanometers thick.

Silk has been used before and is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for medical use. So far, all that’s left is to nano-size the electronics and make the connections better. Once that happens, then what?

Tramp stamp one second, instructions the next.

It’s written all over your face… and the back of your wrist. Currently the technology is limited to monochrome displays, but even so, they can be just as useful. Blood-sugar readings are just a start. From H+:

Professor Litt’s laboratory is a collaboration between Neurology, Neurosurgery, Neuroscience, and Engineering. While epilepsy is the lab’s core focus, other research includes implantable neurodevices, functional neurosurgery, network and computational neuroscience, movement disorders, intra-operative and ICU monitoring, major mental illness, and other brain network disorders.

Ultimately, they can be interfacing with the brain to allow the implantee to control the tattoos.


The future isn’t black and white. Making the millions-of-colors tattoos may still be ways off, but that isn’t stopping Wired from speculating about future uses:

GPS, with a map readout on the back of the wrist would certainly be useful, as would chips that cover your eyeballs and can darken down when the sun is shining too bright.

And a full-body display will eventually be used for advertising. Combine this with bioluminescent ink, for example, and you could turn yourself into a small, walking version of Times Square. At least, unlike a real tattoo, you can switch this one off.

I’m thinking about simply changing skin color to start, like going from Albino white to dark chocolate African, or maybe steel gray… or alien green.

Better still…

How about active/optical camouflage?

This post has been filed under Brain-Computer Interface, Cyberpunked living, News as Cyberpunk by Mr. Roboto.


November 22, 2009

Traclo said:

The camo would require you to be naked, no?
I’m not sure James Bond would want to be sneaking in, get caught and then have to run away naked. Something about it being less cool. :P

b_i_d said:

Note to myself:
When cheating my girlfriend, don’t forget to switch off the touchscreen on my dick.

Rushnerd said:

Simply amazing we truly are the predecessors to the real cyberpunk age.

November 23, 2009

Jeder Lache said:

I’d love an lED tattoo, even a Chromatic One

Klaw said:

Fears what Lady Ga Ga will do with this information…

November 26, 2009


OMG brother and sisters

one of the finest cyberpunk clip ever CHECK IT OUT you be disapointed !!!

November 27, 2009

AHA said:

I need to get in touch with you regarding a collaboration opportunity. Please send me a message :)


AHA if your interested check her website ;P

November 30, 2009

A_BiT_Stoned said:

Is this for real? or is it some cgi shit? I am amazed

December 12, 2009

E1ephant said:

Nice chick hehe =)

December 13, 2009

Alex Greene said:

Active optical camouflage sounds good to me, with one minor drawback - your basic stealth assassin would have to be, like Major Kusanagi in GITS, naked.

This could have its advantages, despite that singular drawback - couples and other groupings could commit outrageous acts of public sex, cloaked and all but invisible unless one knows where to look - and how.

However, the future of active tattoos opens up far more intriguing possibilities. Perhaps the active tattoos could be made conductive at points of contact with smart clothing, allowing one’s clothes and any smart gear carried such as comms or handheld computers to act as an extension of one’s skin and meatbod.

One could finish the job with corneal implants which not only grant greater than 20/20 perception, but which also have a wireless HUD layer giving the wearer full access to augmented reality. With cochlear implants and those smart tattoos stimulating the sense of touch, we could have full access to augmented reality throughout the entire human sensorium.

December 16, 2009 said:

if one could sync some shorts and similar to the camo, it would be useful in areas where its to hot to really wear a full suit for long periods.

December 19, 2009

jools vurn said:

reminds me of the panther moderns.
also, stealth camoflauge would be very feasible.

December 25, 2009

spdzodzo said:

the first thing i thought about after seeing this video would be simple cheating at exams, you’d just have the stuff for exam stored and played in your palm

spdzodzo said:

oh and another thing … what about the skin aging, how it would affect the silk implants?

January 1, 2010

3nil2rock said:

This is amazing, day by day, we get closer to becoming machines. Imagine having your skin display your mental desires. and there’s so many practical uses for this too. it could be linked to heart rate meters, with a display on the wrist, or a weapon with an electronic magazine inventory system, and a heads up display could be placed on the back of a hand, which is also linked to a computer, transmiting, team data

January 28, 2010

sodasound said:

the camoflage option would mean establishing an entire implanted skin, which would be prohibitively expensive, fragile…and more importantly, it would traumatize the tissues and fluid systems of every square inch of the body’s largest organ. Maybe we should put that at the bottom of the list.

February 2, 2010

uNeakk said:

I’d most cirtainly be interested in LED tattoos along side my inked ones.
I’ll happily play guinnie pig for human testing, haha.

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