And this concept is outrageous, isn't it? Tattooing magnetic ink, permanently, somewhere on your body, so that you'll never again miss a text message or a call. I can just picture the commercials now. You're at a dance club. The music is deafening. You're in the middle of your signature dance move affectionately referred to as "convulsing" by your closest friends when your tattoo starts to vibrate. Without having your vibrating tattoo, you would've missed that life-or-death text message from your best friend Suzy who's at home right now watching TV - she texts you to say how she absolutely cannot stand that annoying pharmaceutical commercial that constantly repeats the phrase: "like an inhaled corticosteroid." Ugh, I know Suzy's pain.
Nokia filed a provisional patent application for this technology back in September 2010, which means Nokia has been considering this technology at least as early as mid-2010. On September 13, 2011, Nokia filed a nonprovisional application claiming priority to the provisional, and the application was published as U.S. Patent Application Publication 2012/0062371 on March 15, 2012 with the title "Haptic Communication." The application is currently awaiting examination at the USPTO.
At its most basic, the invention comprises a marking on human skin that contains a compound susceptible to a magnetic field, typically a ferromagnetic powder. Upon being exposed to a magnetic field, the magnetic marking moves in some manner (e.g., vibrates) and the person perceives the movement of the marking, thereby communicating some sort of information to the person. The application indicates that the "information" can be a variety of things, such as a "low battery indication, received message, received call, calendar alert, change of profile, e.g. based on timing, change of time zone, or any other."
The magnetic marking can be in a number of forms, including a visible or invisible image, tattoo, marker, sign, label, symbol, or badge. The marking can be applied to the skin in a number of ways, such as stamping, spraying, tattooing, drawing, or attaching an adhesive tape or a decal containing the magnetic marking. In other words, the marking can be permanent or temporary, which makes it ideal for those of us getting frequent MRIs or having an aversion to tattoos (whether they be visible or invisible).
The application was obviously not written by a chemist. Despite the fact that the magnetic ink is arguably one of the most important aspects of this invention, the composition of the magnetic ink is discussed only briefly. For example, the ink is disclosed to be "enriched by ferromagnetic or paramagnetic compounds for example but not limited to iron (Fe), iron oxide (Fe203), magnetite, liquid suspensions of the rare-earth materials for example neodymium (Nd)." The application also discloses that the magnetic ink may be demagnetized by heating before it is attached to a person. Although no reasons are given, presumably demagnetization is suggested because otherwise the ferromagnetic ink would stick to the tattoo needle and make the tattooing process difficult. Of course, heating the ink until demagnetization occurs entails heating above the Curie temperature of the magnet, at which point the alignment of the magnetic domains is destroyed. After application of the demagnetized ink, the marking can be remagnetized by stroking a permanent magnet several times over the marking.
Instead of discussing the magnetic ink, the majority of the application instead discusses other aspects of the invention, such as the form or location of the marking, the device used to create the required magnetic field, or the relationship between the marking and the device. In other words, it appears the Nokia application was probably written by the same patent attorneys at Nokia that probably work on Nokia's more electronic inventions, but are rather unfamiliar with chemistry.
In one of the more interesting embodiments, the application discloses that this technology can be used "for silent communication between an electronic device and a user. Another technical effect of one or more of the example embodiments is to provide a new communication language based on wireless haptics, for example but not limited to set of pulses, frequencies, way of stimuli."
Just imagine if we all learned Morse code - we could get a series of short and long vibrations on our magnetic tattoos, and we'd understand the content of a text message without having to even look at our phones.
Overall, I'd be willing to give this technology a try if it ever makes it to market. Of course, I think I'd first try out a temporary magnetic mark before considering the more permanent tattoo.
The Nokia application contains three independent claims. The claim most representative of the inventive concept is listed below.
The concept of a magnetic tattoo ink is already known, as demonstrated by U.S. Pat Appln Publication 2005/0061198 titled "Magnetic Ink Tissue Markings." It appears, however, that this publication does not disclose the use of the magnetic tattoo as a means to receive some sort of information from an electronic device. Instead, the '198 publication appears to disclose the use of magnetic fields to change or entirely remove a tattoo made with the magnetic ink, also a pretty cool concept.