Tattoos have a bad rep. Not everywhere, but visible tattoos are frowned upon in many places like, say one’s home, and many contexts like, say during one’s job interview. When tastefully selected and safely administered, tattoos are fashion statements that also project the individual’s attitude and self-confidence (tattoos on David Beckham) or lack thereof (tattoos on meth heads). But due to loud biker gangs and violent prison gangs and certain hippies of the late 90s, tattoos, in general, are still not welcomed in many social and professional circles.
All this will soon change, because the unsettling tattoo of the naked Mary you have etched in your forearm might just end up saving your life. That’s right – the next time your boss or your mother admonishes you for getting another tattoo you can proudly wave the doctor’s prescription in their face, because what you are wearing is not just a tattoo, but it’s a medical device. More specifically, it has programmable robotic sensors that are super thin and crazy smart and they come in wicked styles. These ‘epidermal electronics’ are as thin as one billionth of a meter making them thin enough to cling to one’s body by mild electric charge. Once attached to the body, these sensors can detect and measure all kinds of medically relevant things like heart rate, blood pressure and temperature. These robots can even send impulse into one’s nervous system to activate muscle activity for patients with motor issues. These microscopic robots can be layered under a temporary tattoo which can stay on for several days so while you are impressing low-hanging girls with this cool looking tattoo at you local bar, your doctor is wirelessly receiving all the data that are critical to monitoring and diagnosing whatever debilitating disease you have for which the doctor prescribed this medical tattoo in the first place.
Science has come a long way since the days of the village shaman curing small pox by violently beheading an oxen and spraying its blood on the patient. Today we can walk into any modern hospital and get fMRI-ed, CT scanned, X-rayed, biopsied in three different ways and uncomfortably colonoscopy-ed all before you can finish watching an episode of Mad Men. With these tattoo robots, medicine will become an integral part of our body seamlessly blending the organic with the cybernetic. I just hope that some obnoxious,trust-fund hipster doesn’t ruin their awesomeness by getting a medically ironic tattoo of an MRI machine.
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