This 5G-connected robot was used to perform a remote tattoo session

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Researchers used 5G to perform a remote tattoo session.
Image: T-Mobile

Most people instinctively associate 5G with smartphones. That’s because its predecessor, 4G LTE, is used almost exclusively for mobile devices. The same won’t be true of 5G.

As the faster network rolls out it will enable a host of new technology applications that simply weren’t possible before. T-Mobile researchers wanted to demonstrate 5G’s usefulness in a unique way.

They used a 5G-connected robot to perform a tattoo session with the client and artist in two separate locations. The stunt, dubbed “The Impossible Tattoo,” shows one of the many ways that 5G’s low-latency, high-speed capabilities can be used.

One of a Kind

Dutch actress and TV personality Stijn (pronounced like “stein”) Fransen volunteered to be a lab rat for the experiment. A Dutch tattoo artist named Wes performed the inking. However, the two weren’t seated next to each other in person.

Instead, they sat in different locations, miles apart. Fransen had her arm situated next to a robotic arm while Wes held a tattoo gun inside a high-tech tracking contraption in a lab.

The robot and tracking system were built by The Mill, with creative engineer Noel Drew leading the way. Discussing the process, he says, “Firstly, we needed to work out how to track the tattoo artist’s movements and detect when he was making contact with the surface of a fake practice arm and transmit this data over the 5G network.”

This is possible because 5G has virtually no latency. In other words, movements as small as a millimeter can be accurately transmitted in real-time from any distance.

“Secondly, we had to develop a robotic platform that could receive this data in real-time and control the robot’s movements in relation to the human arm,” Drew says.

While the arm itself isn’t particularly novel, it is one of the first operational robots to feature 5G connectivity. For that reason alone, it is impressive.

Before Fransen sat down for her tattoo session, the robot was tested on “an army of heroic vegetables and prosthetic skin samples” to ensure that the system was safe. Initial trials created some frightening results—such as the tattoo needle driving itself into the skin. Fortunately, the final product came out perfectly.

Stijn shared a photo of the tattoo after it healed on Instagram.

More Applications

Although 5G tattoos are certainly cool, this experiment shows that a more important application will soon be possible—remote surgery.

Imagine having one of the best surgeons in the world performing your surgery remotely through a robot. Operating rooms are already robot friendly. The rise of 5G will make it possible for surgeons to perform operations from anywhere.

Of course, this is far from the only change that 5G will bring. Things like always-connected cars and high-powered AR applications are also just around the corner.

Although the 5G rollout has been hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, the network will continue to grow around the globe. As it does, the tech industry will be ready for a host of new innovations.

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