When you hear the word cyborg, you probably picture a man with various electronic prosthetics.  If you’re a Trekkie, you might think of the Borg, people with machines all over and inside their bodies, walking around like zombies, forcing other people to become just like them.  Cybernetics is scary.  It’s dehumanizing, but maybe there’s another way.

We are the Teddy Borg. Resistance is futile. Your stuffed animals will be assimilated.

Researchers have developed a new cybernetic technology similar to something we’re more familiar with: tattoos.  They can apply thin layers of electronic circuits to the skin.  Even transistors and semiconductors are now flat enough to lay smoothly on human skin.  The trick is making the whole thing flexible enough to keep up with everyday human movement.

The cybernetic tattoo is not even a real tattoo but more like a temporary tattoo.  You can peel it off when you’re done with it.  This has many possible uses, from medical devices to cell phone technology to MP3 players.  A tattoo on your neck could serve as a microphone.  On your hand or arm, it could be a control switch.  In your ear, a speaker.

In science fiction, cyborgs often represent our deep-rooted fears of technology.  Star Trek’s Borg literally invade our bodies to transform us into machines.  But for many people, getting a tattoo is normal, and getting a cybernetic tattoo might seem cool.  If people get used to that, they may someday feel comfortable with other cybernetic technologies too.

Or maybe not.  It’s still a little scary, at least to me.

For more on “electronic skin,” click here.  For more on the Borg, click here.

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