Pucker up for a love transmission

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 April, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 April, 2005, 12:00am

RedTacton may one day enable the electronic transfer of data through the body

A kiss can turn your bones to rubber and your brain to sludge. Now the act may become an even more potent mode of communication, enabling you to transmit your phone number in the process.

Hi-tech kissing could even allow you to transmit heftier data such as an electronic business card or MP3 while you shudder with pleasure.

Thank Japan's Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp (NTT). The firm has announced RedTacton technology that creates a 'personal area network' (PAN) reliant on the surface of the human body for transmission: peer-to-peer transfer that is physically grounded in people.

A RedTacton-enabled snog or hug could instantly land you in someone's database because the salinity of skin makes it a fine conductor, so information can magically flow from one body to another.

The point presumably is convenience. A 21st century road warrior may carry more hi-tech clutter than a soldier. Think watch, pager, mobile handset, digital music player, PDA, laptop, and so on. PAN's promise is to eliminate at least some of these devices.

Imagine the social fallout from RedTacton. Any drunken, casual kiss with a stranger could trigger serious implications, forcing you to talk to the one you necked, whom you might want to shun come daylight.

Then there are the health dangers. For one thing, you might transfer or pick up both biological and digital viruses (God knows how you might install a firewall). For another, you might be in for a shock.

The amount of current involved is said to be minute, but what if a power surge occurred?

Remember that lips are an erogenous zone whose interior is festooned with nerves.

A network hiccup resulting in a jolt would doubtless inflict more pain than any love bite and lend new meaning to the phrase 'electrifying kisser'. Failing electrocution, the threat of the Big C looms. In terms of cancer prevention, turning your body into a network sounds about as advisable as smoking or drying your hands in the microwave.

Moreover, the technology sounds likely to erode our 'natural' identity. Thanks to vitamin pills, quartz fillings, vaccinations, botox injections, implants and a deepening attachment to gadgetry, we are already well on the way to cyborg status. RedTacton could make us truly 'post human'. That is assuming it ever becomes a reality.

Early reports about the power of the 10 megabit network were big on the word 'would'. Gradually, the conditional tense has given way to the future, obscuring the fact that RedTacton is in research and development - little more than blue-sky conjecture.

Further grounds for scepticism stem from the fact that for the Japanese, concocting futile stuff is an artform. Chindogu, as it is called, has resulted in all kinds of duds from the 'earring safety net' (designed to catch dislodged jewellery) to the suicide bomb and the mini-disk.

All NTT has to show is a PC card prototype that looks less than low-tech. It resembles a floppy disk wired up to a credit card swiper.

But NTT's baby is fascinating. It caters for our need to believe that the future holds more than brontobyte MP3 players. We want the prospect of fancy, futuristic gadgetry, even if it promises to make life messier.

If NTT announces a new kind of handset with ray gun potential, every newspaper from the London Times to the Drudge Report and the Dreck Gazette will doubtless give it coverage. After all, it could work - and pigs might fly (via yet-to-be-unveiled 'jetpork' technology).

Sarcasm aside, conceptual innovation is often mocked before it crystallises and duly becomes part of the fabric. The emergence of a RedTacton-style PAN could seduce hardcore techies with a zest for decadence. Picture a mix of unbridled, unlawful P2P action and sex.