Augmented Reality Tattoos: QR Codes, PSVI & 3D

By Siara Gray | @siaragray

Traditionally, tattoos have been limited to two dimensions (Unless in the case of a scarred or over-worked piece), but innovations of the last few years have allowed tattoos to not only be joined with motion, but made it possible to carry digital information in the skin. This works by tethering the ink, whether by pigment pattern or an actual implant in the skin to common tools that the wearer can scan the tattoo, revealing an image, animation, or 3D feature.

One method of creating an animated tattoo is to integrate a quick response code (QR code). The artist has to recreate the QR code perfectly in order for it to be readable in tattoo form. If done correctly, the QR allows the wearer or anyone else to change the content or the encoded message. The result is an ‘open-ended’ tattoo.

A more involved method of dynamic tattooing, is the use of a tiny Programmable Subcutaneous Visible Implant, or PSVI. PSVI is a tiny LCD implant that is inserted under the skin. PSVIs come with a control module (with wireless receiver, microprocessor and software drivers) and power supply (NiMH – Nickel-Metal Hydride), which is recharged from a magnetic sensor. Developed by Jay Sean Singer and Carl A. Pinter, the PVSI implant, displays pre-programmed images that can be reprogrammed at any time.


Similarly, “Augmented Reality Tattoos” employs similar technology that allows a tattoo to view in 3D. Scanning the image on your skin, augmented reality tattoos use a ‘junction point’ to bring the tattoo to life. Scanning the tattoo on your smart device, the technology tells your device the location, size and orientation of your body with a single symbol. The animation moves perfectly with the movement of the body in the video playback due to its three dimensional technology.

These kinds of implants aren’t legal at the moment; there hasn’t been much research on related health risks, but I predict that will change in coming years. Already technology has been considerably integrated into daily life in unexpected ways. The marriage of technology and body art at some point was inevitable. Although these experiments challenge the permanence of tattooing, an element of the craft that has always been key, the new possibilities are admittedly exciting.

Augmented reality tattoo

Augmented reality tattoo | Photo: Alison Bennett, Shifting Skin, 2013






Comments are closed.