Tattoos made by robots: Long distance art

Artificial intelligence arrives in the world of tattoo


Currently, artificial intelligence is evolving, and it is facilitating some tasks, allowing us to carry out others that could not be achieved without its existence.

In this opportunity, technology comes to offer us an option for tattoo lovers who want to get a design on their skin from artists who are far away.

T-Mobile Netherlands, promoted a project called "The Impossible Tattoo", as part of a new advertising campaign, in order to show the speed and reliability of its high-speed internet network.

What is the project "the impossible tattoo" about?

The communication company proposes to develop a system to allow a real tattoo artist to make a design on a synthetic skin mannequin, while, simultaneously, a remote robot imitates its movements and manages to render a tattoo on human skin. All this, thanks to the fast technology of 5G.

Noel Drew, the British engineer, technologist, creative and director, was in charge of designing the robotic arm and directing his team.

Then, Wes Thomas, a traditional style tattoo artist who has his own studio in Amsterdam, called "Tattooshop Schoffie",was tattooing on an inorganic canvas while, 500 kilometres away, Noel's invention imitated Wes’s movements inking the skin of the brave Stijn Fransen, the renowned Dutch actress who was encouraged to live this experience.


For 6 weeks, Drew, together with the team of designers from the post-production company "The mill", developed the necessary technology that would make the first remote tattoo possible.

The construction of the device had elements 100% designed for this purpose. Some of them were purchased and others designed, developed and manufactured from scratch.

To carry out the project, we worked in a bank of 3D printers, where designs and prototypes were made before reaching the final goal.

Thomas contributed to this stage and trained engineers to deal with human skin as a means.

Challenges on the way to the goal

Artificial intelligence

One of the most difficult challenges facing the development team was finding a way to replicate the control and knowledge of human skin the tattoo artist acquired throughout his career.

The artist, while making his different works, manages to adapt to the changes in the skin, which depend on each person and the part of the body chosen.

To avoid all kinds of difficulties regarding this particular feature, they decided to solve it by tightening the actress's skin with wide adhesive strips, immobilizing her arm and avoiding sudden movements or changes in position.

Ink supply

The tattoo artist, usually, in an ordinary session, refills his machine with ink sometimes.

Considering that this activity would be very difficult for the robot, Drew placed a small device in which the ink is supplied, avoiding deploying a large movement that would hinder the practice.

Steps away from the first distance tattoo

Before the long-awaited final act, numerous and diverse tests were carried out on vegetables such as pumpkin, in order to test the operation and make the necessary adjustments.

After several failed experiments, where the food took the rap of being part of the trial, they decided that the robotic arm was ready to show off in its task: tattooing human skin.

The most anticipated moment: tattoo time!

The design was previously agreed by video call. The celebrity asked the artist for a Minimalist style design, which will represent her love for surfing and hiking.

Fransen admitted before sitting down: "I'm fine, but I'm a little nervous."

With everything ready, the incredible experience began where the tattoo artist Wes Thomas was filmed while tattooing on a mannequin and the robot, located at a great distance, copied his movements through 5G technology, making the same design on the woman.

Throughout the process, Fransen maintained her calm and confident demeanor. While the tattoo was being made, a potentiometer calibrated the needle so that it didn't got too far into her arm.

After a while, the incredible adventure ended, leaving the expected result and without any unforeseen events.

Stijn Fransen, after looking at the abstract design applied on her skin and with a big smile on her face, she said: “Wow, I have the first 5G tattoo! How cool is that? Now it's on my arm!"

Watch the video!

Artificial intelligence is scaling unimaginably, like in this case: tattooing a person miles away.

The history of the tattoo (if you want to find out about it, click here), becomes increasingly enriching thanks to those who encourage different projects to promote its growth.

Would you collaborate with a robot to create a piece of your own?

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