Nokia has applied for a US patent that lets a user feel who's calling. The technology can be used in a skin patch adhered to a person's arm or embedded into a tattoo. When called, the system vibrates and uses haptic feedback to indicate whether its an incoming call rather than a text message, or even to identify who is calling.
Haptic feedback is the application of pressure or subtle force on the skin. The technology is used in current touchscreens. When a user types on the display, they actually receive back a small vibration. Nokia's concept takes the idea to a different level.
Nokia has outlined two ways in which haptic feedback could be applied. In the first implementation, a device owner wears a patch stuck to their skin. When a call comes in, their phone would emit a specific magnetic signal or a preprogrammed pattern of magnetic impulses. The patch would then create vibrations felt by the user. In this way, the phone owner could "feel" who was calling or distinguish the type of message being received, in a manner similar to how they now can have distinctive identifying ringtones.
Nokia also envisions extending haptic feedback to tattoos. It is possible to create a tattoo with the normal process, but using special ferromagnetic inks. The inks would then be magnetized. The tattoo would then behave in the same manner as the skin patch in response to the magnetic signal emitted by a smartphone. It would also have the downside of being permanent, like any other tattoo.
As with most patents, Nokia is trying to protect the application of an idea and isn't necessarily giving an indication that the company is planning to actually create a product with it in the future. The technique could be a hedge for Nokia should directly wearable phone technology take off.