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Nokia requests patent for 'vibrating tattoo' mobile alerts

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Nokia Lumia 800 White
Nokia has filed a patent application that would involve users having vibrating magnetic tattoos that alert them to incoming mobile phone calls or text messages.

Filed at the US Patent and Trademark Office, the Finnish mobile handset giant's application details stamping or spraying "ferromagnetic" material on to someone's skin and then linking it to a mobile device.

The application, flagged up last week by the Unwired View blog, lists Cambridge-based Zoran Radivojevic and Piers Andrew as the inventors, along with Finland-based Jarkko Saunamaki and Tapani Jokinen.

They have developed technology that uses magnetic markings on people's arm, stomach, finger or fingernail, which could alert the person to new SMS messages, calls, calender alerts, changes of time zone or low battery warnings.

Alerts would involve vibrations of "one short pulse, multiple short pulses, few long pulses... strong pulses, weak pulses and so on", said the patent filing.

The application goes on to say that the magnetised tattoos could be used as an identity check, involving users making a certain shape that becomes their "magnetic fingerprint".

This could act as a password to unlock the device, similarly to the Face Unlock system in Google's latest Android operating system.

Nokia's patent filing is part of growing investigations into 'haptic' - or touch - feedback in mobile devices, which it is thought could create the next level of interaction.

Phones from HTC and Samsung already offer slight vibrations when users press buttons on screen, but the next level would be providing real haptic feedback in touch movements, such as pulses and bounce effects, or 'textures' on displays.

But Nokia's idea is distinctive because it would involve semi-permanent markings on the user's body.

Marek Pawlowski, editorial director at mobile industry research firm PMN, told the BBC that users could be put off by the idea.

"Our research suggests that once a user become accustomed to haptic feedback on a phone or tablet screen, other devices that don't offer it can feel 'dead'," he said.

"Nokia's patent suggests that their magnetic mark could be invisible - which might make this appealing to some. But in the immediate term I think users would draw the line at anything that is invasive like a tattoo or would be seen to have potential medical effects."

Nokia has not commented on the report.

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