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Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao, Asta Roseway*, Christian Holz*, Paul Johns*, Andres Calvo, Chris Schmandt.
MIT Media Lab in collaboration with Microsoft Research*


DuoSkin is a fabrication process that enables anyone to create customized functional devices that can be attached directly on their skin. Using gold metal leaf, a material that is cheap, skin-friendly, and robust for everyday wear, we demonstrate three types of on-skin interfaces: sensing touch input, displaying output, and wireless communication. DuoSkin draws from the aesthetics found in metallic jewelry-like temporary tattoos to create on-skin devices which resemble jewelry. DuoSkin devices enable users to control their mobile devices, display information, and store information on their skin while serving as a statement of personal style. We believe that in the future, on-skin electronics will no longer be black-boxed and mystified; instead, they will converge towards the user friendliness, extensibility, and aesthetics of body decorations, forming a DuoSkin integrated to the extent that it has seemingly disappeared.

Paper to appear at International Symposium on Wearable Computers 2016 (ISWC'16) :
Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao, Christian Holz, Asta Roseway, Andres Calvo, Chris Schmandt, "DuoSkin: Rapidly Prototyping On-Skin User Interfaces Using Skin-Friendly Materials.", to appear in ISWC'16. Heidelberg, Germany (September 12-16, 2016). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 8 pages. [pdf]

Press Inquires:
Press Contact: Alexandra Kahn   Email:   Phone: 617-253-0365   MIT Media Lab
Press Kit: Download Media

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Watch in Action


Three classes of on-skin user interfaces


Using DuoSkin, we created on-skin input elements that resemble traditional user interfaces, such as buttons, sliders, and 2D trackpads.The 2D touchpad uses row-column scanning in a two-layer construction that isolates horizontal traces from vertical traces. We fabricate the two layers separately and then apply and overlay them onto skin.



DuoSkin brings soft displays onto the skin, enabled through the ink-like qualities of thermochromic pigments. These displays have two different states and color change is triggered when heated beyond body temperature. Displays can also be separated into designated parts. To activate color changes on our displays, we fabricate resistive heating elements underneath the thermochromic layer.


To exchange data across on-skin interfaces, communication needs to be wireless. DuoSkin devices communicate using NFC, whose tags comprise a chip that connects to a coil. We fabricate this coil using gold leaf, customized to various shapes and sizes

Fabrication Process

DuoSkin’s three-step workflow. Step 1: (a) Sketching skin circuitry with graphic design software. Step 2: (b) Fabrication, which includes (c) creating stencils of the circuitry, (d) applying gold leaf as the conductive material, and (e) mounting electronics. Step 3: (f) After completing the circuitry, we apply the DuoSkin device to the user’s skin through water-transfer.

Digital Skin Jewelry

DuoSkin metal leaf traces serve both, decorative and functional purposes, this LED necklace is an example of jewelry-like routing made with DuoSkin.


We thank Arun Paidimarri, Trang Thai, Dimitri Lymberopoulos for NFC advice, Mike Sinclair for fabrication advice, Nan-Wei Gong for capacitive sensing advice, Lining Yao, Jennifer Jacobs for feedback on a draft of this paper, Helene Steiner for modeling photos, and Sarah Bardin, Jami Rose, and Erica Yuen for help with fabrication.