Nokia is looking into haptic tattoos to help you feel who’s calling

Patents. There are strange ones, very vague ones, obvious ones… and then there are those which can be labeled as borderline creepy. This is one of those cases.

Not satisfied with just getting its own flavor of slide-to-unlock patented, Nokia wants to take haptic feedback to a level you haven’t previously encountered. Haptic tech is employed, for example, when your phone vibrates as you type on its touchscreen. Haptics deal with appealing to your sense of touch by applying forces or vibrations to your skin.

Which is exactly what Nokia wants to do, proposing the application of tattoos with ferromagnetic inks, that will vibrate based on commands from your phone.

In the first described embodiment of the patent, you’d wear a sort of material that’s attachable to the skin. On your forearm, for example. This material can do two things: detect a magnetic field, and emit a vibration.

The material could be paired with a phone, for example, like Bluetooth accessories are paired to electronics. The phone, however, would have to be capable of emitting varying magnetic fields.

So then, for example, when someone calls that phone, it will send out a specific magnetic field. The material will detect that, and will start vibrating in a certain pattern. That pattern could be different according to who’s calling, or it could be different according to what exactly is happening on the phone (a phone call, text message, and so on).

For this to work, the phone would have to send out a different magnetic field for each action, because the material would associate a different type of vibration with each kind of magnetic field it detects. The vibrations would happen by magnetically manipulating the material.

But wait, there’s more. What about using an actual tattoo instead of that material attached to your skin? Yes, Nokia has thought about that too.

The tattoo would be applied using ferromagnetic inks. The ink material would first be exposed to high temperatures to demagnetize it. Then the tattoo would be applied. You’ll apparently be able to choose the actual image you want as the tattoo. The procedure is identical to that of getting a ‘normal’ tattoo – only the ink is special.

After the tattoo has been applied, you’ll need to magnetize it. That means bringing the tattooed area in the close proximity of an external magnet, and going “several times over this magnet to magnetize the image material again”. The tattoo will then have enhanced sensitivity towards external alternating magnet fields, and will basically function the same way the aforementioned material attached to your skin did. Only in a more permanent fashion, so to speak.

There probably are some valid use cases for something like this. For example, in noisy environments when you risk not hearing your phone, this tech would make sure you know it is ringing. Or even at the exact opposite end of the spectrum, it could prove useful in very quiet situations, where even a phone set to vibrate can be heard and can be disturbing. Although with this use case we are already plunging into creepy territory.

So yes, you could wear such a tattoo and, when in a meeting, you and only you will know that your phone requires some attention. Then again, this whole thing feels like it’s one of those which sound sci-fi enough to become a reality in the future, yet they probably won’t. Because they’re not so useful as to render their creepiness irrelevant.


Author: Vlad Bobleanta

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