That aside, it’s wonderful to see an industrial robot being put to this use. The project was engineered by French designers Pierre Emm and Johan da Silveira (otherwise known as Appropriate Audiences), who have prior form in this department. Back in 2014, along with fellow ENSCI Les Ateliers-graduate Piotr Widelka, they created Tatoué, a Makerbot 3D printer with a tattoo gun instead of a plastic extruder. That creation has a good claim to being one of the first robot tattooists, but Emm and da Silveira’s latest work — made as part of a residency at Pier 9 in San Francisco — certainly ups the stakes.
As the video explains, the process of tattooing by robot has a few steps. You’ve got to create a 3D scan of the target area, mock up the desired tattoo using custom computer software, and then (as we mentioned before) make sure the recipient stays very, very still. After all, industrial robots are incredibly precise, but most models are not at all responsive. That’s why people are killed (very infrequently) by industrial robots: if you get in the way, they don’t know to stop.
After watching the video, though, we’ve still got a lot of questions: like, did anyone get hurt during the making of this? What did it feel like compared to getting a tattoo by hand? And are there any plans to make this more widespread? We’ve reached out to Emm and da Silveira to get some answers, and will update this story when we have any more information.
You’ve got to say, though, the finished product is very, very neat: