Nano-tattoos are a form of tattooing that employ microscopic microchips embedded in the skin. When activated, the chips cause color changes that create patterns on the skin. The practice originated with the Minmatar, but has spread to the other races, becoming particularly popular among Gallente youth.
Brief History of Tattooing
The practice of tattooing is an ancient art among the Minmatar. It evolved from the tribal custom of using war paint and came to dominate many aspects of Minmatar culture. Though it was suppressed by the Amarr during their conquest and enslavement of the Minmatar, tattooing was preserved in secret and openly revived following the Minmatar Rebellion. Over years, it has returned to being a high art among the Minmatar, with adults having many intricate tattoos, some covering their entire bodies.
A popular form of tattooing involves mimicking the patterns of war paint on the face. The downside of this was the constant aggressive posture it caused the wearer to hold. This frequently caused issues with communication and diplomacy, particularly between tribes and with the other races. Given the options of either discontinuing the practice, or living with the consequences, Minmatar tattoo artists and scientists sought a third solution.
Many different solutions were attempted and ultimately discarded. The first real success came with heat-sensitive dyes. These dyes were nearly skin-tone colored when at regular body temperatures, but would darken when heated. The theory was that when a wearer became agitated, angry, or otherwise emotionally excited, the tattoos would become visible.
While it worked as intended, the tattoos would also appear at inopportune times as well, such as during moments of extreme joy, lovemaking, intensive work, on hot days, and even during embarrassment. Additionally, the dyes were limited to a few skin tones, such that many Brutor and Vherokior tribesmen were unable to use them.
A later attempt came with subdermal LEDs. The LEDs were initially tuned to the user's emotions, so that they only appeared during proper moments. Gone were the stories of children hugging their tattooed parents, only to run screaming in terror when the color changing dyes activated in response to the parent's rising body temperature from joy.
However, the LEDs were widely considered garish and ugly. The tattoos did not resemble tattoos as much as bioluminescence, giving users the perjorative nickname "fireflies". While the LEDs remain somewhat in use by body-modders and among elements of the Gallente club culture, they quickly fell out of use among the Minmatar. However, many of the technologies used came to be vital in the eventual solution.
While LEDs proved unpopular, LCD technology eventually was adapted to become a solution. First coming onto the market in YC101, these LCDs were attached to microscopic integrated circuits that were implanted in the skin. Unlike with the LEDs, the LCDs needed to be more shallow to be visible, and were thus placed between the epidermal and dermal layers of skin.
The microchips are attached to nerve clusters in the sweat glands and hair follicles. This allows the chips to read the user's emotional state, through a combination of biological signals such as the pilomotor reflex and adrenaline levels. When the chips detect anger, fear, or excitement, the LCDs activate and either darken or lighten, depending on the wearer's skin tone, creating extensive patterns across the skin.
Recent developments have allowed more control over the tattoos as well as variations in the color patterns. Newer chips can be tied directly to the user's nervous system, allowing the user to turn the tattoos on and off at a whim, rather than being tied to emotions. Additionally, some have colors that can be altered either according to the user's emotional state, producing, for instance, red tattoos when angry and blue ones when excited, or consciously controlled so that the tattoo can be any variety of colors the wearer wishes.
Many more traditional Minmatar look down on those who have controllable tattoos, as they believe it indicates a lack of discipline. Gallente youth have appropriated the tattoos as a fashion statement, along with other pieces of Minmatar culture, which has led to tension, particularly in ethnic Minmatar communities in the Federation. Among the Gallente, the controllable tattoos are the norm, allowing the wearers to be "rebellious" when out of the eyes of authority figures whose disapproval might cause problems.