Glitter Beards, Tech Tats, and the Quantified Self

I’ve never been a big one for makeup, tattoos, are various forms of body decorations, but recently, Kim shared a post about glitter beards and I was curious about how they get the glitter to stay in their beards.

One of the first sites I came to talked about latex body paint. That’s not something I want to use in my beard. I can’t imagine what it would be like to get the paint out. However, rereading the article, it appears as if they were using latex body paint for people that don’t have beards to make a faux-glitter beard. A later article suggested that beard oil, hair oil, or even hairspray would do the trick.

I’m not sure when I would glitter my beard. It just isn’t a decoration I would normally wear. Perhaps if I were doing something special with my three daughters, I would consider it, but one is in Japan, one is in Boston, and one is at home, so I don’t foresee any opportunity to glitter my beard for them, and I really don’t think glittering my beard for work parties, political gatherings, etc., really fits. Maybe an Ingress gathering, but I’d have to have green glitter.

Putting aside beard glittering, I stumbled across an interesting article: “Tech Tats” Turn Wearable Devices into Cyberpunk Body Art. It pointed to work Chaotic Moon is doing in this area. It looks very interesting, but appears to be still more of a concept than a product.

The stories about Tech Tats often lead to discussions about the quantified self. This is an area I’m really interested in, merging my health care work and my technology interests. I probably won’t make it to the Quantified Self Meetup in NYC in December, but I’m following what they are doing.

For two years, I wore Google Glass, and while I found it interesting and somewhat useful, the biggest thing I found lacking was any sort of useful sensors. I would like wearable device that could track activity level, heart rate, blood pressure, O2 level, blood sugar levels, cortisol levels, etc. I would like to know how these change during a normal day. I’d like to have a baseline so that if my averages start shifting, I could be notified to investigate what might be going on.

I played with the Samsung Gears for a little bit and didn’t find it all that compelling. I’ve looked at the Withings Pulse O2, but it needs to be manually engaged to do a reading. It doesn’t seem quite ready for prime time.

All of this takes me back to the Tech Tats. Is it possible to build a continuous O2 monitor as a Tech Tat? What about continuous monitors for blood sugar or cortisol?

So, I looked a little more closely at the idea behind Tech Tats. It seems as if part of what they are using, at least for the prototypes is BarePaint - Conductive Paint. This paint comes with a warning,

Note: Bare Paint is not meant for use on skin!

Note: Bare Paint is not waterproof, but depending on what your application is you can paint over it with a waterproof paint or varnish. On the bright side this does make for easy cleanup.

Perhaps, you could paint a layer of latex body paint, then paint the circuits using conductive paint, and then paint over the circuits to make them water proof.

A simple idea would be to paint circuits that could be connected or not based on touching fingers together. These could be very simple circuits that light up LEDs when circuits are connected. They could even, potentially, be multi-person circuits; one person with the battery, others with LEDs.

Then, there is the idea of adding logic to the circuits. It seems like the ATtiny85 and related devices could easily be part of tech tats and provide the logic.

Of course, some of the real fun could come if you start adding Bluetooth to connect to a mobile device, RFID paint, or NFC connectivity. All of this, probably moves more in the direction of programmable highly interactive makeup for fancy parties, and not so much for quantified self experimentation, but it could be a stepping stone.

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