T-Mobile Netherlands joined forces with tattoo artist Wes Thomas last year to demonstrate the speed, reliability, and low latency of its new 5G network. The company has developed ‘The Impossible Tattoo’: the world’s first-ever remote tattoo, powered by T-Mobile’s 5G technology.
As part of The Impossible Tattoo project, the tattoo was needled into the skin of a Dutch actress and TV personality, Stijn Fransen, by a robot arm controlled by a tattoo artist from another location in real-time via 5G. The robotic arm used machine learning to learn the placement of Fransen’s arm and map the placement onto Fransen’s body.
The artist drew the design on a mannequin arm while a robot copied his every move with a needle on a real arm. With the new benefits of the network, there is virtually no delay, which means an action with millimeter accuracy can be performed no matter the distance. ‘The Impossible Tattoo’ convincingly shows what speed, greater reliability, and low latency mean in the real world.
Before tackling Fransen’s arm, Wes Thomas practiced the device on an army of heroic vegetables and prosthetic skin samples. The actress finally got her tattoo last year during the COVID-19 lockdown in the Netherlands. During this time, normal visits to a tattoo studio were not possible.
The Mill’s Experience team, led by Noel Drew, both built the custom robot tattoo arm needed for this groundbreaking feat and also created the film that captured it. Drew used an Azure Kinect Development Kit from Microsoft for the robotic arm and the scan of Fransen’s skin.
According to T-Mobile, the project with the 4G and 3G network was not possible. The processing of large amounts of data and latency-free data transmission can only be achieved with 5G technology. However, it remains to be seen whether this example will catch on and whether there will be even more tattoo artists who want to apply their art to their customers’ skin by remote control.