Would you trust a robot to give you a tattoo? What if the robot was mirroring the actions of a professional tattoo artist? Well now, thanks to a collaboration between T-Mobile Nederlands, London-based engineer Noel Drew, and tattoo artist Wes Thomas, this is now an awesome (or terrifying) reality.
Technically, this tattoo was still given by a professional artist but it’s done remotely and the robot is what’s doing the actual inking. It’s mimicking the movements of the tattoo artist in real time. Given the choice, most people would still probably choose to get their ink the old-fashioned way: in person with a human tattoo artist. After all, part of the process is literally inking the bond between the person getting the tattoo and the artist.
The robot spent weeks undergoing intense testing at Drew’s design studio, The Mill, working out the kinks and refining the software. Dozens of tests were performed on poor, unsuspecting butternut squashes, and afterward the robot was just as accurate and delicately finessed as Thomas is when he tattoos in his shop.
Part of the testing phase was accounting for things like the artist dipping the needles in ink and understanding how deep into the skin to push. After accounting for all of these minute factors, the robot was finally ready for the main event: to give a tattoo to Netherlands actress Stijn Fransen via Wes Thomas, who was in London.
The event was a way to show the boundaries and possibilities of (T-Mobile’s) 5G cellular technology and of remote communication. And while there are no current plans to make remote tattoos a regular thing, it’s kind of cool to know the option is out there, especially if you live in one country and your favorite tattoo artist lives in another.