Superpowers are something we’ve all fancied having at least once in our lives. Being especially endemic to science fiction, from films like Star Wars and The Matrix, TV serials like Heroes, through comic books and novels, the ability to move objects with our minds or communicate by thought alone undeniably holds appeal. And now, scientists and technicians appear to be close to bringing the human imagination forward into reality.

TattoosPhoto: us.tunigo.com

Researchers at the University of California are currently developing temporary tattoos containing micro-circuitry capable of interfacing with thought and micro-muscular movement, without having to directly connect to nerve endings.

These non-invasive devices can be applied to the skin and are only 100 microns thick. This is comparable to the diameter of a single human hair, and the polyester casing of the miniscule wiring allows them to flex and crumple without destroying the delicate components. These minute computers can detect the bio-electric signals from the nerve endings under the skin even to the point where researchers were able to “read the minds” of test subjects by analysing the neural signals detected from these patches being placed on the head.

Other thermal and light sensitive elements can be added to monitor skin temperature and blood oxygen levels. At its current level of development, it’s thought this technology could be used as a non-invasive health monitor, to detect the early onset of signs of epileptic seizures. However, in the future, it could be used for more.

There have already been several tests and demonstrations that show people with electrodes linked up to their heads can use specific commands to steer robots, directing them with the power of thought alone.

Further research into these tech-tattoos could see this bulky equipment removed. With enough investment, the research team behind this say that soon military drones could be flown by thought. Patches stuck to the throat muscles could act as silent microphones, detecting and interpreting muscle movement and speaking for you, without you ever needing to open your mouth. Such an innovation would be invaluable to sufferers of speech impediments or with facial damage which prevents proper word formation.

While this technology is designed for use in the medical and military sectors, there is a long history of research intended for one purpose being reconstituted for another. The tattoos may someday be repurposed as a consumer product.

Imagine being able to walk into a room and turn on the lights, the computer and television just by thinking it. To travel on a crowded bus, and not have to hear everyone’s phone conversations, because they’re communicating by muscle twitch. Being able to walk up to a nightclub bar, and sense by other people’s neural tattoos who’s “in the mood”. The cyborgs are coming …