Posted in design and architecture

Capturing sound via tattoos

An interesting concept in an age of ubiquitous cell phone access and body accessorizing; a company called Skin Motion is offering to tattoo soundwave patterns on to people. These people can then access and playback the sound recording via an app on their smart phone.


The firm Skin Motion describes itself as “a mobile application and artist platform network for augmented reality tattoos.”

Soundwave Tattoos all started when two friends got the opening line from Tiny Dancer tattooed by Nate Siggard. As they were leaving after their appointment, Nate’s girlfriend Juliana said “wouldn’t it be cool if you could listen to the tattoo?” and Nate quickly realized that he could make that happen. Nate decided he needed one of his own, with Juliana and their 4 month old baby saying “I love you” and filmed it to share online.

He posted the video on Facebook the next day, and it immediately went viral. Messages started pouring in from people all over the world who wanted to get one too. Nate quickly realized the potential for a way to make Soundwave Tattoos available for everyone. After writing the patent for personalized augmented reality tattoos, he launched Skin Motion.

Nate has provided a demo of the product:

According to their website, it works by recognizing the wave pattern in their sound library and playing it back:

A person uploads or records the audio they want into the app or website. We generate the soundwave from that. The person takes the generated soundwave to a tattoo artist we have trained and certified to do them. Artists need to be certified in order to make sure they understand the limitations of the technology and how that applies to tattoo placement, size, changing the design of the tattoo from a simple soundwave to make it more custom or elaborate on it for the person. Once they do the tattoo, the artist uploads the file to our backend. Within 24 hours we animate the overlay and add it to the app. When the person uses our app and points the camera on their mobile device at the tattoo, it recognizes the shape of the soundwave and plays back the animated overlay that has the original audio file in it.

So far this seems to work very much like a QR code, since there isn’t enough information stored just in the sound wavelengths alone.

Their website also mentions they are working on being able to accommodate a pre-existing wave form tattoo, so I will be curious to see how that works.




Beth Kelley is an applied & digital anthropologist with an overall interest in how people engage with and are impacted by their environments and vice versa. This has manifested itself in many ways, by looking at creativity, playful spaces, built environments, and environmental enrichment, sustainability, design research, and integrative and collaborative models of learning such as through play and hands-on learning.