Last year a group of design students responded to a challenge from the French Cultural Ministry and modified a 3D printer to turn it into a tattoo machine. The machine was able to tattoo an almost perfect circle onto the arm of one of the designers. While many were impressed by the tattooing robot, and rightly so, we were a bit taken aback by the idea. There is something about turning tattooing over to the machines that gave us visions of Judgement Day.
The students, now calling themselves Appropriate Audiences, have focused all of their attention toward improving the tattooing robot. As we watch what it is now capable of we can't help but tip our hat. Now the machine can do a lot more than just simple circles—numbers, lettering, wavy lines and more. In the video below you can watch the machine in action.
Still, the whole thing feels wrong. As impressive of a feat as the invention is, it seems wrong to take out the human element of tattooing. One of our smaller concerns is how do you tell the machine that you are ready to tap out from the pain. It is not clear whether or not the operator will be able to stop on a dime, or even ease up just a little. But this is nowhere near as detrimental to tattooing as we feel the loss of intimacy between the tattooer and the client is. There is something really special that happens when someone is marked for life by another individual. This is why artists love to tattoo their friends and loved ones, it can be a great experience. And in less you know how to speak binary the conversation is going to be a little bit lacking while the machine goes to work on you.
As long as the work of Appropriate Audiences and their tattooing robot remains a cool oddity we'll continue to applaud their work, it is pretty damn impressive. Let's just hold off on replacing all of the flesh and blood tattooers with robots, OK?