Augmented Reality tattooing

Keen to get some serious ink, but not so keen on spending hours under the needle? Not to mention fielding the reactions of your family, friends and colleagues? Well, good news – draw a basic QR barcode on your arm with black marker, and everyone will see it covered with whatever fierce and gnarly tattoo designs you specify. Provided they’re looking at it with the right filters and layers activated in their AR headset, of course…

Obviously very crude and basic at the moment, but the potential for complete appearance changes is easily extrapolated… and there’s the advantages of non-permanence to consider, too. Tattoos and the more adventurous forms of elective surgery have a tendency to hamper one’s progress in mainstream life (if there can be said to be any such thing any more)… this way, you can show your colours to them who’ll appreciate (or respect, or fear) them without having to watch the corner-store cashier flinch for the emergency button every time you go in for a bottle of milk.

Actually, once you start thinking about it, you realise that appearance will become almost as mutable and fluid as identity itself, once AR becomes as ubiquitous as phone handsets already are. The terminal corrosion of objective reality continues apace…

3 thoughts on “Augmented Reality tattooing”

  1. This is interesting. Don’t forget, though, that tattoos appeal because the changes they make are immutable — they are a permanent commitment, they show that you mean it. AR tattoos are likely to be like magic-marker tattoos, which are viewed as goofily inauthentic.

  2. Is AR really going to be any more transformative than a fancy outfit? If you want to see the person underneath you just have to take your goggles off, after all.

  3. Dave: Well, tattoos appeal to some people because of their immutability, but I suspect (as a person with a lot of tattoos who’s had the pertinent conversation many times) that their immutability is the main cause of people not getting them. Point I’m trying to make here is that AR opens body-mod up to a whole lot of people who otherwise wouldn’t participate. As a result, the culture around permanent body-mod will become yet more intense and transgressive, because of the desire to underline the authenticity issues you raise. This fits with current evolutions of body-mod, which have seen the cutting edge venture ever further out into shock territory as the older and less extreme manifestations become vernacular.

    Patrick H: Maybe not, but again, the issue is that of the permanence or impermanence of the transformation. And don’t forget that we love to be fooled, to buy into narratives, to see people as they wish to present themselves (or as others wish to present them) rather than as who they really are (assuming there’s any such objective personality, a point that I’m personally a bit ambiguous toward; character is a product of a person and their observer). Sure, my generation will probably take off the googles a lot of the time… but if we’re willing to concede that the googles are coming, we can without making too much of an intellectual leap also concede that the generations that grow up with them will use them as their everyday window on the world in exactly the same way we use print, televison and the internet as our own. They’ll be able to choose their layers, and they’ll vary in skew and opacity and topics of focus, but they’ll use them to the extent that they’ll become extensions of their consciousness. Media are media are media. The choice to not participate is still a choice.

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