I'm sure a bunch of you have some sort of tattoo somewhere on your body. Your reasons are your own (although not always, in the case of some- for instance, women who have been trafficked in the sex industry have been essentially branded with a tattoo that indicates which trafficker they "belong" to. But we get away from the point here.) Assuming that is not the case with you, there are certain popular locations to get your tattoo. The arm, for instance, the lower back, the chest or gut, or if it's some tiny little thing you don't want to make a giant deal of, the heel of your foot. The more daring, some might say more unhinged, might opt for something on your face. Or your teeth. Or your eyeballs seriously what is wrong with you.
So knowing that little piece of horror, it should come as no surprise that there are throat tattoos as well. It will come as at least a little bit of a surprise, though, that Google has gotten into the throat-tattoo business. Motorola Mobility, a subsidiary, has filed a patent for a temporary electronic throat tattoo.
Let it be known that I get a tiny bit jittery even shaving in that area. I'd really rather nothing went wrong down there. There is just no way in hell.
Anyway, the tattoo is supposed to be able to communicate with various electronic devices, many of them Google products of course, with the intent that you would be able to just shout your commands to them without having the device or a headset or anything except the tattoo on hand. Given galvanic skin responses to those verbal commands- that's the way in which the skin conducts electricity- the patent also speculates about lie-detecting applications. How well that will work is rather questionable. It would be far from the first evolution of the lie detector machine, which in turn is still an improvement over the old trial by ordeal, where you'd have to grip a red-hot poker and let the wound sit for three days or eat rice powder or bread and then try to swallow it or pulling the tail on a donkey or all manner of other things they used to use at trials. Throughout all of these methods, there's a common thread of not being 100% accurate and unthwartable. As William Iacono of the University of Minnesota wrote in 2001, there is no one single physiological trait that will 100% distinguish a liar from a non-liar. You can come close, you can get things to the point where you're going to nail the vast, vast majority of liars, but there's always going to be something that can potentially thwart your method. A lot of methods depend, for example, on the guilty party realizing that they're guilty and being conscious of the fact that they are lying. A guilty party that truly believes in their innocence, or who has undergone enough practice in the skills required to pass a given test, can force a false negative. For example, one early trial by ordeal was to walk across hot plowshares. Someone who knows proper firewalking technique could pass this test with relative ease.
For the record, both the lie-detection and the firewalking aspects of that paragraph have been covered by the Mythbusters; Grant Imahara was able to defeat a lie detector based on an MRI by frightening himself across so many areas of the brain that the machine couldn't tell the difference between Grant lying and Grant just being scared.
So maybe Google should just stick to having you yell things into the air in the hope that other things somewhere else will hear you.