MIT and Harvard's biosensing tattoos will change color when you're dehydrated

Tattoos can make for interesting skin decoration, but could they also be made to act like wearable devices that offer up health-related or other biometric insights through the use of biosensing ink? A new project called the Dermal Abyss certainly believes so — and it’s got the proof of concept to back it up.

A collaboration between Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers Katia Vega, Xin Liu, Viirj Kan and Nick Barry and Harvard Medical School researchers Ali Yetisen and Nan Jiang, the Dermal Abyss demonstrates the enormous potential of culturally and medically integrated biosensing tattoos, which change color to signal changes in the body’s metabolism. Part tech demo and part philosophical inquiry, the work raises questions like whether we might be willing to publicly display protected health information in exchange for easier access to knowledge of our own bodies.

“The utilization of tattooed biosensors can provide measurements of biomolecules for continuous monitoring,” Vega told Digital Trends “We replace traditional inks with biosensors that colorimetrically index the concentration of sodium, glucose, and H+ ions (pH) in the interstitial fluid of the skin: the pH sensor changes between purple and pink and the glucose sensor between blue and brown; the sodium and a second pH sensor fluoresce at a higher intensity under UV light. Some examples would be for diabetes, dehydration or controlling a pH levels. This work shows the potential of tattooing biosensors in the skin for applications in medical diagnostics, quantified self, and data encoding in the body.”

At present, the biosensing inks have been limited to tests on pig skin, although Vega says that response from the general public has been extremely favorable — suggesting that there is a definite market here, should someone be willing to capitalize on it.

“We are glad to have a positive response from the public to this project,” she said. “In the same way that the wearables industry is integrating fashion practices in their development, we envision new partnerships between the biotech companies and skin professionals such as prosthesis experts and tattooists in order to embrace the idea of human-device symbiosis. The purpose of the work is to highlight a novel possibility for biosensors rather than bring a medical device to market. As such, there are currently no plans to develop The Dermal Abyss as a product or to pursue clinical trials.”

Gaming

Google’s Stadia is the future of gaming, and that’s bad news for our planet

Google’s upcoming Stadia cloud gaming service, and its competitors, are ready to change the way gamers play, but in doing so they may kick off a new wave of data center growth – with unfortunate consequences for the environment.
Emerging Tech

Geoengineering is risky and unproven, but soon it might be necessary

Geoengineering is a field dedicated to purposely changing the world's climate using technology. Call it 'playing god' if you must; here's why its proponents believe it absolutely must happen.
Emerging Tech

Climeworks wants to clean the atmosphere with a fleet of truck-sized vacuums

Using machines that resemble jet engines, Climeworks wants to fight climate change by extracting CO2 from thin air. The gas can then be sold to carbonated drink and agriculture companies, or sequestered underground.
Emerging Tech

How emotion-tracking A.I. will change computing as we know it

Affectiva is just one of the startups working to create emotion-tracking A.I. that can work out how you're feeling. Here's why this could change the face of computing as we know it.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robots that eat landmines and clean your floors

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

SpaceX experiences problem during test, Crew Dragon capsule may have exploded

SpaceX has experienced a problem during the testing of its Crew Dragon capsule. During the engine test firing at Cape Canaveral yesterday afternoon, an unspecified anomaly occurred which lead to plumes of smoke rising from the test site.
Emerging Tech

The grid of the future will be powered by … giant subterranean bagpipes?

In order to transition to a more renewable-focused energy system, we need to scale up our grid storage capacity --- and our existing methods aren't going to cut it. Could compressed air be the key?
Emerging Tech

Beresheet crash caused by manual command, but reflector device may have survived

Details are emerging about what may have gone wrong with spacecraft Beresheet's failed moon landing. A manual command was entered which led to a chain reaction. But NASA still hopes to salvage use of its Laser Retroreflector Array device.
Emerging Tech

The oldest type of molecule in the universe has been located at last

A milestone in the development of the early universe was the combination of helium and hydrogen atoms into a molecule called helium hydride. But strangely enough, this ancient molecule has never been detected in space before now.
Emerging Tech

Mercury’s wobble as it spins reveals that it has an inner solid core

Scientists have long wondered what the inside of Mercury looks like, and they now have strong evidence that the planet has a large and solid metallic core. The data for the new findings was collected by the now-defunct MESSENGER mission.
Emerging Tech

Gravitational forces at heart of Milky Way shaped this star cluster like a comet

Hubble has captured the stunning Messier 62 cluster. The cluster is warped, with a long tail which stretches out to form a shape like a comet. It is thought this distortion is due to Messier 62's proximity to the center of the galaxy.
Emerging Tech

Burgers are just the beginning: Embracing the future of lab-grown everything

You’ve almost certainly heard of the 'farm to fork' movement, but what about 'lab to table'? Welcome to the fast-evolving world of lab-grown meat. Is this the future of food as we know it?
Emerging Tech

Troubleshooting Earth

It’s no secret that humans are killing the planet. Some say it’s actually so bad that we’re hurtling toward a sixth major extinction event -- one which we ourselves are causing. But can technology help us undo the damage we’ve…
Emerging Tech

Inside the Ocean Cleanup’s ambitious plan to rid the ocean of plastic waste

In 2013, Boyan Slat crowdfunded $2.2 million to fund the Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit organization that builds big, floating trash collectors and sets them out to sea, where they’re designed to autonomously gobble up garbage.