Fake Nails That Open Electric Doors, And Other Beauty Innovations of the Future


When you were a kid, and you thought about The Future, what did you imagine? Flying cars and moon colonies? Robot colleagues and interactive appliances, like showers that knew the exact temperature you liked and floors that cleaned themselves? When I pictured the future as a kid, that was the kind of stuff I envisioned. I saw everyone walking around in sleek silver spacesuits, being shuttled to work in air-trains that looped around a metropolis floating in space. It seemed a long way off, and yet unbelievably exciting.

I’m happy to report we’re one step closer to our collectively imagined high-tech future, y’all. And I’m not just talking about Google Glass. Interactive, wearable beauty technology is here. We’re talking metalized, conductive nails and eyelashes that might complete a very low-voltage (safe) circuit when moved or blinked in a specific way. Katia Vega, a computer scientist at the Pontifical Catholic University in Rio de Janeiro, is the mind behind some of these “beauty technology” products—as she told NewScientist, she’s interested in using the human body as a “new input device.” So far, using exaggeratedly long winks, Vega’s been able to launch a handheld-size drone into flight, change slides on a presentation from afar, and cause hundreds of tiny LED lights woven into her hair to twinkle in specific patterns. With her colleague Hugo Fuks, Vega is also working on ways to make false fingernails with hidden RFID tags an actual option for use in everyday life. With the technology-embedded nails, you could DJ an entire music set just by caressing water in a special box, open electric doors, or even link to your public transit card. Swipe your nails at the train turnstile and go!

I love this idea. I feel like we’ve been getting closer to rampant wearable technology in the past few years—I mean, we already have light-enhanced clothing for night bikers, self-heating mittens, and tiny computer watches. Now we have beauty technology! I have so many ideas! So does Lucy Dunne, a wearable technology designer at the University of Minnesota in St Paul, who pointed out that the really cool part of such items with real-world, practical applications, is that you don’t have to remember to bring them with you. “Beauty products have the same potential that clothing items do as vehicles for interacting with technology,” Dunne told reporter Paul Marks. “Imagine your eyelashes interacting with your conductive-ink tattoo.”

Eeeee, a conductive ink tattoo! So Hunger Games! Guys, guys, what if you had the entire alphabet tattooed on your chest with conductive ink that was only visible when in use? You could spell out new messages to people while batting your lashes demurely at the bar! Messages like, “I AM A DAMN CATCH” or “BACK AWAY SLOWLY.” What if you could swipe your fingernails in place of a credit card and use your fingerprint as ID and … never take a wallet with you ever again? Or forget it at home? What if you could use low-wattage LED lights woven into your hair over your face to cast your skin in an extra-flattering light?  What if you could blink and change your lipstick color? Hurry up, science, when will this be ready?! (Especially that last one.)

Vega thinks it could be soon. She’s in talks with cosmetics companies about her ideas, but said she’s still  “in negotiations.” Said cosmetics companies: Pay Vega a lot of money and let’s do this thing. I’m ready and waiting for my light-up chest tattoo.

What do you think? Is this awesome, scary, or a little bit of both? What high-tech beauty products would you want to see?!