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Nokia eyes tattoos that talk to your phone

@CNNMoneyTech March 22, 2012: 1:14 PM ET
The sketches in Nokia's patent application show how its proposed

The sketches in Nokia's patent application show how its proposed "haptic feedback" system could be attached to the user's skin.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Nobody likes a loud ringtone, and if you don't have your phone close by, you might not feel it vibrate. Finnish-based Nokia has a potential solution, with just one catch: You need to get a tattoo.

In a recent filing to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Nokia (NOK) described a concept for using magnetic ink embedded in the skin to interact with a specific electromagnetic field put off by mobile phones. The interaction would generate a perceivable stimulus when the ink registers "an alert of an incoming message, a phone call, an alarm."

In other words, your tattoo will vibrate with your phone.

Karen Lachtanski, a spokeswoman for Nokia, said she couldn't speak to when the technology might be commercially developed.

"We file more than 1,000 patents and inventions a year, but don't comment on when or how they'll be used in a Nokia product," she said.

The patent, first spotted by tech website unwiredview.com, implies that tele-tattoos could look just like any other tattoo, using ferromagnetic powder made into a specialty ink. And just as with ringtones, the tattoo wearer could personalize the vibrations, setting different sensations for various people or to differentiate between text messages, e-mails and calendar alerts.

If you're not interested in embedding phone links in your skin, Nokia has a less drastic suggestion. Its patent application also covers "magnetic materials" attachable to the skin, like a label or a badge. The sketches Nokia included show what look like stickers pasted to the wearer's wrist or abdomen.

That sounds like an easier sell -- but one without the "wow" factor and lifetime staying power of a tattoo. To top of page