Enter the maze

Tattoo you?

by Peter W McOwan, Queen Mary University of London

A tattoo machine: copyright www.istockphoto.com 93482661

It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but tattooing has punctured its way into the world of robotics.

Normally you need to have a great deal of confidence in the person with the needle, so how would you feel if that needle was in the hands of the robot? It's just such a question that French designers Pierre Emm and Johan da Silveira, with computer scientist David Thomasson, are exploring as a way of looking at how our relationships with robots develop. Using an industrial robotic arm, normally used for car assembly, the tattoo needle is moved around the skin inking the pattern it's programmed to deliver. The person receiving the tattoo needs of course to stay very, very still. While those who are interested in this kind of body art enjoy the creative element and the ability to make a statement about something of their individuality, a robot producing such intimate permanent artistic work on a human canvas might be another way of making your point...quite literally.