The First-Ever Remote Tattoo Is a Demo for the Power of 5G

Definitely avoid sneezing, though

5G's got a marketing problem. Instead of getting bogged down by that, T-Mobile in the Netherlands has opted to focus on the positive.

With help from the crazy cats at Anomaly Amsterdam, it's produced "The Impossible Tattoo," a campaign for which many a summer squash has been sacrificed.

The Impossible Tattoo - Powered by 5G

The goal was to demonstrate the reliability and power of the 5G network by doing something incredibly sensitive, where stakes are pretty high. (We all winced when, in practice rounds, that big metal needle stabbed through a tomato.) To do this, Anomaly worked with The Mill to build a robot arm, with Dutch tattoo artist Wes actively contributing to research and development.

Anomaly says countless tests were conducted on vegetables and prosthetic skin samples.

"There were three lanes of initial development," explains The Mill's technical lead, Noel Drew. "Firstly, we needed to work out how to track the tattoo artist's movements and detect when he was making contact with the surface of a fake practice arm, and transmit this data over the 5G network. Secondly, we had to develop a robotic platform that could receive this data in real-time and control the robot's movements in relation to the human arm. Thirdly, we needed to develop a deep understanding of the fine details of tattooing."

When go-time came, Wes used the robot arm to remotely tattoo a small custom design on the (extremely fragile!) inner arm of actress Stijn Fransenm. The performance also reinforces T-Mobile's reputation as the most reliable network in the Netherlands: 5G means almost no lag, so a tattoo needle can perform with millimeter accuracy from a distance. 

"Instead of just talking about what the future could bring us, we wanted to show what 5G is really capable of," say Anomaly creative directors Afshin Moeini and Christian Poppius. "To be able to fully trust a tattoo artist remotely tattooing your body ... it's that needle-to-skin tension that makes this so powerful. We knew that if we pulled it off, we would create something incredible that has never been done before."

While a remote tattoo sounds risky—don't ask us to sit in that chair, let alone pitch the concept to an agency's liability lawyer—it stands on strong precedent: 5G-powered remote surgery. Last year a Chinese doctor used 5G to successfully remove the liver of an animal from 30 miles away.

The video, from South China Morning Post, says a 5G delay is only about 100 milliseconds, quick enough to avoid potentially fatal errors. 

"5G will offer us unprecedented new possibilities in the field of connectivity and mobile internet," says Richard Marijs, T-Mobile's technology strategist. "We are very proud to have made it possible for tattoo creation to take place from different locations, thanks to the low latency of connectivity in a live environment, via our 5G network in the heart of busy Amsterdam. And this is just the beginning."


Client: T-Mobile Netherlands
Manager Brand & Communications: Margaret Kreuger
Sr. Brand & Communications Manager: Daniel Straeter
Agency: Anomaly Amsterdam
Creatives: Afshin Moeini (CD), Christian Poppius (CD), Maria Patti, Dieuwertje Matheeuwsen, Blaž Verhnjak
Business Director: Ralph Balk
Strategist: Maurits Denekamp
Agency Lead Producer: Loïs van Ruijven
Production Company: The Mill
Director: Alfie Johson
Technical Director: Noel Drew
Developers: Seph Li, Matthew Hill, Eleanor Edwards
Executive Producer: Jarrad Vladich, Josh Davies
Producer: Elliot Tagg, Sinead Catney
Editor: Joe Walton
D.O.P: Tibor Dingelstad
Sound post-production: Wave Studios
Sound Engineer: Randall Macdonald
Producer: Michael Hoogdorp

Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is the European markets editor at Muse by Clio. She also writes about gaming and fashion, and whatever else she's interested in, really. She's based in Paris and North Italy, so if you're local, say hi. She might eat all your food.

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