Gold leaf tattoos have the potential to be more than just a trendy fashion statement. They’re good conductors of electricity, which—as a team of researchers recently discovered—opens up some pretty neat possibilities. After it's applied to the body like a temporary tattoo, a new technology called DuoSkin can be used as a wearable interface, FastCo.Design reports.

In their paper [PDF], which will be presented at the International Symposium on Wearable Computers in September, scientists from MIT Media Lab and Microsoft Research break down the components of their high-tech tattoo. It’s made using circuits held between tattoo paper and vinyl with a shiny layer of gold leaf on top. Wearers can design the circuits into any shape they want using the graphic design software on their computer. Once it’s ready, the tattoo can be transferred to their skin as any other temporary tattoo is, using a warm, wet towel.

MIT Media Lab

The final product serves several different functions. Users can drag their fingers across the surface in place of a trackpad or use it to skip through their music player. The technology’s NFC (near field communication) capabilities could make allowing someone to scan your movie ticket or verify your identity as easy as sticking out your arm. For wearers more interested in the aesthetic appeal, the circuits can also be used to power embedded LEDs or change colors in response to your mood.

The tattoos are strictly D.I.Y. for now, but it’s easy to imagine the technology gaining popularity down the road. As paper co-author Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao says in the video below: “In the future when you walk into a tattoo parlor, you would come out with a tattoo like this.”

[h/t FastCo.Design]

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