In a collaboration between a telecommunications company, a roboticist, a tattoo artist, and a very brave tattoo recipient, a team sponsored by T-Mobile Netherlands successfully conducted the world’s first remote tattooing using a 5G-enabled robotic arm.

As part of a marketing initiative to demonstrate the low latency of 5G, T-Mobile engaged British technologist Noel Drew to build and program the robotic arm to mirror, in real-time, the needlework performed by Dutch tattoo artist Wes Thomas on a mannequin arm.

As Thomas drew on the mannequin’s synthetic skin, Dutch actor Stijn Fransen received a tattoo from the robot in another location. The robot arm used machine learning to monitor the position of Fransen’s arm and plot the tattoo pattern onto her skin.

Built from the ground up using 3D-printed parts, the robotic arm required multiple tracks of development and constant iterations of designs and prototyping.

“This project has so much going on,” Drew says in the video. “We’ve got real-time human hand tracking, we’ve got precise control over a robot, we’ve got the tattooing, and the power of 5G [with a huge] amount of data to transfer from one end to the other.” Drew also had to recreate – in a robot arm – the subtle human nuances of the artist.

“I’m a little nervous,” says Fransen in the video. This is something of an understatement, as one of the main concerns was that the robot-controlled needle would go in too deep and penetrate or cut the skin.

The video includes footage of the needle violently plunging into the skin of a tomato and gauging deep tracks in butternut squash. In the end, a potentiometer monitored Fransen’s skin surface to ensure the needle didn’t penetrate too deeply.

he project, dubbed “The Impossible Tattoo,” was made to demonstrate the low latency of 5G, or the speed at which the network can process a very high volume of data messages. 5G is capable of delivering as little as a two-millisecond lag between devices located thousands of miles apart.

The creative production studio behind the campaign, The Mill, explains more on its website:

“With the new benefits of the 5G network, there is virtually no delay, which means an action with millimeter accuracy can be performed no matter the distance. ‘The Impossible Tattoo’ convincingly shows what speed, greater reliability and low latency mean in the real world.”

For ink enthusiasts, this technology could soon mean they could get a tattoo from a famous artist located thousands of miles away.

Credit: Thomas Insights

T-Mobile Uses 5G-Enabled Robot Arm to Draw World’s-First Remote Tattoo

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