A screengrab of a demonstration of a Soundwave Tattoo, which when viewed with the app plays a recording uniquely tied to the tattoo.

Tattoo Artist Develops AR App to Immortalize Sounds on Skin

In a novel and innovative use for AR technology incorporating both visual and auditory elements, a tattoo artist has brought a new, dynamic dimension to the ages-old art of tattooing with the success of a new medium-blending spin. With Skin Motion’s patent-pending Soundwave Tattoos, approved tattoo artists can give people one-of-a-kind waveform tattoos that, when paired with the company’s cloud-based mobile app, can play back any sound the person wishes to preserve on their skin.

Last year, tattooist and VJ Nate Siggard (with prior AR experience in trippy projection-mapped paintings) developed the concept that would become Skin Motion’s Soundwave Tattoos after being inspired by a conversation with his girlfriend about the potential for playing back music from a tattoo.

After a string of press coverage and viral videos in the past year, Soundwave Tattoos have become somewhat of a trend, with many customers opting for intimate pieces done to celebrate new members of the family or in memorial of lost loved ones. Some users have even immortalized their pets using Soundwave Tattoos.

A Soundwave Tattoo’s actual design does not contain the sound—waveforms can’t fully encode a full sound in and of itself, being a measure of volume. Rather, the magic of the Soundwave Tattoo experience relies upon Skin Motion’s app and the original file stored with Skin Motion on the company’s cloud. Full interactivity with a Soundwave Tatoo requires the company’s app, a compatible mobile device, Internet connectivity, and a small yearly subscription with the company.

Much in the same way that a unique QR code “points” to a file or app location when scanned, the company’s tattoo app recognizes a waveform tattoo’s unique shape and then retrieves and plays the original sound originally linked to the tattooed waveform. So, while a QR code or feasibly any digitally-recognizably shape could be linked to an audio file and used much in the same manner as Soundwave’s design, is anyone in a hurry to tattoo a QR code of their baby’s first words or a departed grandparent’s laugh on their bodies?

Soundwave Tattoo’s technology keenly blends a creative visual representation of a person’s closely treasured auditory memories—a laugh, a dog bark, or a clip of a favorite song—with a unique experience that lets people play these memories on a whim. The company is growing and aims to preserve customer data so that the technology does not obsolesce, potentially integrating new features in the future such as the ability to use the app to listen to other people’s Soundwave Tattoos or, conversely, make one’s own tattoo ‘private’ and protected.

For more information, read more at the developer’s site, or check out the community hashtag #mysoundwavestory on Instagram.