You Have To Watch This Robot Create The Perfect Tattoo

Working with a tattoo artist is all about intimacy and creative expression. And, most of all, it’s about trust. But say you’re the kind of person who likes the idea of getting inked, but is a little freaked out by the possibility of human error. (Even amateur artist Margot Robbie — who has inked more than 50 designs on various friends, including Cara Delevingne — has admitted to misspelling a word here and there.) Well, the world’s first robot tattooist is here to help.

The robot is the brainchild of Appropriate Audiences, the French duo known for arming a 3-D printer with a tattooing needle to make an inking machine dubbed Tatoué. In order to bring automated tattooing "out of the box," Appropriate Audiences teamed up with the Applied Research Lab at Autodesk, which is “really focused on this more intimate relationship that people are likely to have with machines in the not-so-distant future,” according to David Thomasson, the principal research engineer at the lab.

“Immediately, we were thinking along the same lines,” Thomasson continues. “We wanted to see a big, mean industrial robot arm doing this really subtle interaction with a human.”

He’s not kidding. The robot arm is massive — something that looks sized to put together a car, not ink a delicate forearm. The team collaborated with health and safety pros and a few outside groups to program the robot’s fine-point precision. After scanning the body part to be tattooed, and translating the information into zeros and ones for the robot to read geometrically, the team then programmed the graphic design to be inked onto the skin’s surface, exporting the code as the robot’s marching orders.

As you can see in the video, witnessing a massive robot arm descend upon someone's skin with a needle is a little nerve-racking. And because the robot can’t account for bodily movement, its first subject had to be tightly strapped down to ensure the design didn’t go awry.

This all seems particularly jarring considering how far removed it is from the intimate experience human-on-human tattooing creates. A big part of getting a tattoo is human touch — allowing an artist to read your vibe, learn about your lifestyle, and create the perfect design just for you. (And maybe even to spot skin conditions.) So, we don’t anticipate a robot takeover when it comes to getting inked anytime soon. Still, as Thomasson points out, the machine's first stab at tattooing is “elegant, precise, and beautiful” — in other words, right on trend.

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