Saturday, March 24, 2012

Retirement Tools — Tattoos At Your Service

One thing I’ve noticed since I’ve retired—my hearing isn’t what it used to be. It’s probably just the normal decline that comes with age. But the fact that I don’t have as much need to pay attention may be a contributing factor. Either way, an announcement this week by Nokia, the Finnish phone people, caught my eye (if not my ear).

Nokia has patented the technology for a vibrating tattoo. The abstract describes an apparatus with “a material attachable to the skin, the material capable of detecting a magnetic field and transferring a perceivable stimulus to the skin…” It further states that “the material comprises at least one visible image, invisible image, invisible tattoo, visible tattoo…” yada, yada yada. In other words, maybe you see it; maybe you don’t. I won’t bore you with more excerpts from the 21 claims in the abstract.

The device is intended to let you know when your phone is ringing. Assumedly, the phone is on mute and is not in your butt pocket. The vibrations can be tailored so that different callers tickle you differently, and you can customize them much like you can ringtones. So, your spouse might generate an insistent, nagging vibration, while your grandchildren might make you laugh when you feel them calling.

The tattoo can be installed anywhere you want it. I believe you can have multiple designs stuck on you, set to vibrate differently for various incoming calls. You might want to position the tattoo for frequent callers someplace pleasurable. Likewise, calls you’d just as soon ignore could be slapped someplace where the sun doesn’t shine. Although, if you’re planning on ignoring those calls, meaning they’ll just keep vibrating, you might want to put that tattoo someplace that feels good.

While the intention is for the user to get an actual tattoo, the patent provides for less invasive applications of the ferromagnetic ink. I can see pros and cons for both methods of attachment. I wouldn’t have to worry about a tattoo falling off. On the other hand (perhaps quite literally), as my skin loses elasticity, a tattoo might not function exactly as intended. Have you ever seen the ink on a granny biker babe?

Based on my own experience, Nokia’s device has enormous potential. I’m often compelled to sleep with earplugs because of my husband’s snoring. They’re so effective that sometimes he has to shake me to wake me up. It would be great to be alerted that my phone is ringing even when I’m blissfully plugged.

Of course, I would then need to find the phone. The good news is that claim 14 in the abstract suggests that the tattoo could provide an “indication of a body part in proximity of the electronic device.” I assume that means that as I walk closer to where the phone is, my tat will vibrate more insistently, causing me to cry out: “I’m getting warm!” Or better yet: “I am so hot!”

I see all sorts of other uses that could excite retirees. How about letting us program our shopping list into a computer that’s synced to the tattoo. As we push our carts around the store, the tat could vibrate when we’re in front of something on our list. We could even set it to vibrate differently for things on sale. I’d certainly want to be alerted when Pepperidge Farm Milano Cookies were calling me. With my luck, it would direct me to avoid things my doctor would prefer I didn’t have in my cart.

Speaking of doctors, if Nokia ties this into a calendar application, they could jiggle us when we have a doctor’s appointment. Or a prescription ready for pick up. Or any meetings or events to attend. The possibilities for tattoo jiggling are mind boggling.

A vibrating tattoo could be as good as having a personal assistant! And you wouldn’t have to buy it flowers on what used to be called Secretary’s Day. (I just Googled this. It’s now called Administrative Professionals Day and it’s April 25 this year.)

Yes, dear readers. Nokia’s vibrating tattoo is something we should all look forward to having installed, whether inked, stamped or taped. With the right art, it could be a great conversation starter.

Or ender. “Sorry. Gotta run. My navel’s vibrating.” Oh, yeah.

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