Talking tech since 2003

It’s no secret that Google is working as hard as it can to move us to “the future” as quickly as possible. To that end, smartphone-making subsidiary Motorola might have just taken a few more steps in that direction with the latest patent it’s filed.

First spotted by Engadget, and later reported on by TechCrunch, it seems that Motorola has filed a patent for “coupling an electronic skin tattoo to a mobile communication device.” That’s right—an electronic tattoo that you would pair with your smartphone. The filing explains the purpose of such a thing:

“The system comprises an electronic skin tattoo capable of being applied to a throat region of a body. The electronic skin tattoo can include an embedded microphone; a transceiver for enabling wireless communication with the MCD [mobile communication device]; and a power supply configured to receive energizing signals from a personal area network associated with the MCD. A controller is communicatively coupled to the power supply. The controller can be configured to receive a signal from the MCD to initiate reception of an audio stream picked up from the throat region of the body for subsequent audio detection by the MCD under an improved signal-to-noise ratio than without the employment of the electronic skin tattoo.”

The first thing I thought of when I read this was Metal Gear Solid, the amazing tactical espionage game for the original PlayStation, where your in-game avatar communicated with his superiors via a communication device that stimulated his inner ear and could detect the vibrations of his vocal cords—allowing him to talk and receive orders without alerting the nearby enemy soldiers. Needless to say, there are more than a few amazing and futuristic possibilities for something like this in both the civilian and military sectors—and gives a whole new meaning to the term “wearable computer.” Take that, Google Glass.

The TechCrunch post notes that previous references by Google staffers to an “electronic tattoo” was being used to describe “a thin, pliable device that adhere’s to a user’s skin and could be replaced on a weekly basis.” To me, this sounds kind of like a nicotine patch crossed with those temporary tattoos we all used to wear as kids. The thought of having an actual, indelible microphone permanently affixed to a person’s throat is a bit much—but a replaceable sticker that can pick up your vocalizations? That’s a lot more plausible, and a lot less creepy.

The patent was actually filed in May of last year, though it’s only been discovered online today. As to when—or if—this might ever actually make it to market, well, it’s probably a pretty long way off. And there are more than a few security concerns I can think of here. We’ve had plenty of issues this year regarding the government’s surveillance of what we do online—would we really want to stick a piece of voice-catching tech to our necks?

There are all sorts of questions and possibilities here, some cool, some spooky. Where do you fall on having a neckrophone stuck to your body?

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