This Lie-Detecting Throat Tattoo Is Google's Creepiest Patent Yet

This seems like a reasonable response to the problem of making calls in noisy environments.
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From Google's patent. "I'll have the 280, please!" (USPTO)

Google's Motorola division makes phones. People make calls on those phones. And now that mobile has eaten the world, they often reach out to business associates and loved ones in noisy situations like "large stadiums, busy streets, restaurants, and emergency situations." Which makes it harder to communicate. 

Thankfully, then, Google has patented a new possible solution to the age old problem of talking with each in loud places: "Communication can be reasonably improved" by the application of an electronic throat tattoo, which could dampen "acoustic noise."

Sounds reasonable! Just look at the guy in the patent drawing. He's happy! Who wouldn't want a neck tattoo that provides "auxillary voice input to a mobile communication device"? 

But it's not just a noise-canceling microphone for your telephone! The tattoo can do more. It can have a display that lights up under certain conditions.

And the other kind of noise that gets introduced into conversations is lies! Bad data. So, the electronic skin tattoo can detect those, too.

"Optionally, the electronic skin tattoo can further include a galvanic skin response detector to detect skin resistance of a user," the patent reads. "It is contemplated that a user that may be nervous or engaging in speaking falsehoods may exhibit different galvanic skin response than a more confident, truth telling individual."

That is contemplated, isn't it? 

Put it all together and The User could have a screen on his throat that turns orange when he starts sweating because he's a liar. Everything will be clear to his business associates and loved ones, from the timber of his voice to the content of his character.

Who would not want to live in this world?

Some caveats:

1) This is just a patent. Patents rarely become products. Most are worthless. Etc.

2) Though it is called a tattoo, the device is really more of a sticker applied with an adhesive. 

2a) Which is a good thing because everyone hates an obsolescent tattoo (see: tribal bands, frat letters, ex-spouses).

3) Other researchers are working on similar "tattoos," but for different applications, mostly biomedical sensors

4) It's not just for humans! "Here it is contemplated that the electronic tattoo can also 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."

It is contemplated, then, that perhaps, your dog will be able to tell you how much he loves you in a robot voice. But then you'll look down and his little screen will be flashing orange, orange, orange. Orange for liar.  

Me, in the future.

 

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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