A QR-Code Tattoo: The Future of Ink or a Big Mistake?

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Dec. 19 2011 5:26 PM

A QR-Code Tattoo: The Future of Ink or a Big Mistake?

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Chris Johnson has the new Sydney Mardi Gras logo tattooed on his arm by tattoo artist Crash at Bondi Ink in Sydney, Australia.

Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

At least it’s not on his lower back.

A fellow named Fred Bosch (no relation to your Future Tense blogger, to the best of my knowledge of the family tree) decided to get a tattoo that could never grow stale. No, not henna or a temporary tattoo. Bosch got himself inked with a QR code. This itself is not new—QR code tattoos have surfaced before, even drawing the paranoid attention of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. The novel twist here? If you snap two photos of Bosch’s tattoo with your smartphone, it won’t pull up the same thing. Bosch’s invention was to make his QR code pull up randomly generated images. CNet’s Amanda Kooser writes, “The code may pop up with a GIF of a couple of headbangers swinging their hair around, or a recent tweet, a phrase, a video, or a weather report. Bosch calls it the first-ever random tattoo.”

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Kooser points out one potential downside of the ink: If his skin starts to sag, might Bosch’s tattoo lose its functionality? I see another potential problem. While the QR code’s death may not be here yet, it’s entirely possible, even likely, that it will fade in favor of other interactive, scannable media in the coming decades. And then how will Bosch explain his body art to his grandchildren? It would be like having a Walkman tattoo.

Read more on CNet.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies.