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Google seeks patent for lie-detecting neck tattoo

Published time: November 12, 2013 23:50
Reuters / Chris Helgren

Reuters / Chris Helgren

Google has applied for a patent for a temporary neck tattoo that would emit an electronic signal capable of connecting to a mobile device and working as a lie detector.

Motorola Mobility, which is owned by Google, has submitted an application for what is effectively an adhesive device “that compromises an electronic skin tattoo capable of being applied to a throat region of the body.”

While a low percentage of patents ever become actual products, the intent behind this latest filing appears to be to allow a person to wear the tattoo on their neck while keeping their mobile device in their pocket. The temporary tattoo would transmit the conversation from the individual’s mouth to the mobile phone, for example, and could make it easier for them to communicate hands-free.  

The patent filing suggests the device would be used by security teams working in noisy atmospheres or by undercover police who would need to hide their communication devices.

Mobile communication devices are often operated in noisy environments,” the document states. “For example, large stadiums, busy streets, restaurants, and emergency situations can be extremely loud and include varying frequencies of acoustic noise. Communication can reasonably be improved and even enhanced with a method and system for reducing the acoustic noise in such environments and contexts.”

The filing also notes the possibility that the technology will not be exclusive to humans. “Here it is contemplated that the electronic tattoo can be applied to an animal as well. Audio circuitry can also include a microphone for emitting sound corresponding to fluctuations of muscle or tissue in the throat.”

The new idea is already taking on the same criticisms that Google Glass has struggled against - that it is simply too invasive for those who do not want to participate. Yet some critics have said this technology would go even further than Google Glass, by containing a “galvanic” barometer - a reference to measuring skin’s natural electricity.

Optionally, the electronic skin tattoo can further include a galvanic skin response detector to detect skin resistance of a user,” the patent application reads. “It is contemplated that a user may be nervous or engaging in speaking in falsehoods may exhibit different galvanic skin response than a more confident, truth telling individual.” The tattoo would therefore serve a similar purpose as a polygraph machine. 

 Power for the tattoo would come from a variety of sources, “solar panel technology, capacitive technology, nanotechnology, or electro-mechanical technology” among them.

Although reluctance to the product was expected, social media and the blogosphere met the news with practicality, suggesting the lie-detection could be beneficial. 

They could run a few tests on this patch in Washington DC,” one commenter wrote. “Require one on the forehead of every politician.”

Comments (11)


John Erb 07.01.2014 17:35

There is no off button. Once its on, everything is on record.

The Borg has arrived.


Conor 13.11.2013 19:57

Whether it be convenience or security, nothing is worth your liberty.


hannah 13.11.2013 09:13

Let’s look at the components; cellphones, verbalized thought, person, tattoo? (the tattoo must have some nanotechnology that is the enabler of this process). Decoding subvocalizations has been around for years; the cellphone gives players real-time access. The tattoo is what some people have referred to as an implant, albeit, mainly involuntarily implanted. Don’t play poker with someone wearing one of these. Who knows who is unknowingly wearing one of these????

View all comments (11)
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