pierre emm and johan da silveira have created tatoué, an industrial robot arm that can autonomously draw intricate tattoos on humans. using 3D scanning technology, the body part is captured and then uploaded to dynamo, design software that converts the form into a geometric language the computer can understand. the software helps by applying the design onto the scanned surface, plus exporting the pattern code to the robot. ‘tatoué’ uses exactly the same needle and ink as traditional tattoo guns.




before developing the machine, the french-duo experimented by attaching a tattoo gun to a 3D printer in 2014. the artists created their latest robotic arm during their four-month artist-in-residence program at san francisco-based software company autodesk. the program allows artists to own everything they create, but requires them to share their technology on an open source platform.

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the lack of evolution in the tattoo industry spanning across the past century interested the designers, who met while at l’ensci design school in paris. their first priority was to start testing on the human body as quickly as possible, and in doing so, various iterations of the machine were formed. each improvement in ‘tatoué’ added to their timeline in the creative project.

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initially, the machines sheer size and finesse are impressive. then, the terrible scenarios come to mind: what there is too much pressure and it hurts? what if the person isn’t strapped in tight enough and moves? however all of these concerns have been alleviated in minute detail by autodesks health and safety team, gaining expertise from pilz automation safety and the robotic industries association standard. the tattoo design is pre-programmed into the machine, but a human is in control of the robot’s speed plus has an emergency stop option.

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