The recent South By Southwest (SXSW) showcased a lot of new tech. Among some of the most fascinating notions getting a lot of, well, ink was a mashup of digital technology and healthcare that puts some real skin in the game for those pushing the “quantified self” trend. The big idea? A color changing tattoo ink that responds directly to changes in the body – slightly reminiscent of “mood rings” that took the mid-seventies by storm (look it up, kids!).
In layman’s terms, Dermal Abyss uses your own skin as a display for indicating health issues by making tattoos the interface. Essentially, tattoos change colors based on biosensors in the ink and your personal skin chemistry will help point to specific health issues. Blood sugar and sodium levels are a couple of the early indications the technology focuses on. For instance, the ink changes from blue to brown as blood sugar rises or, when under UV light, could detect rising salt levels by turning a bright green.
This kind of technology has big promise for those suffering with diabetes who currently need to monitor their glucose levels by drawing blood, 3 to 10 times per day. With Dermal Abyss, there is a very real future future where piercing to draw blood is replaced with a simple tattoo, of which the color change of which would reveal glucose levels in real time. Thus, the user would only need to monitor the color changes to understand their need of insulin.
In June of 2017, it was merely a proof of concept using pig skin to explore the possibilities, uncovering research around ink performance, safety, and biocompatibility, as well as overall formulation engineered for long-duration implantation. Today, it is one more step to becoming a standard bearer for the future of detection and compliance for a myriad of ailments.
Much more than a mood ring – and an ink homage to “Mother” for that matter.
Banner image credit: Unknown, taken at SXSW.