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InkHunter is an AR app for trying tattoos before you ink indelibly

TechCrunch TechCrunch 6/04/2016 Natasha Lomas

If you’ve been procrastinating about getting a tattoo here’s a neat little AR app, called InkHunter, that’s aiming to help you decide what and where to ink without having to regret that snarling wolf facial tat after the fact.

The app includes a selection of designs by different tattoo artists that you can try out virtually via the automagic of smartphone-powered augmented reality placing pixels on your flesh in real-time.

You can also upload your own sketches to the app to see whether your pen skills are sharp enough to merit leaving a permanent mark on your person.

In a neat touch, the app asks you to put a little ink on your skin — think of that as part of the try before you buy process — because you need to draw a flat-lined emoji-style face (called Square Smile) on your person in the place where you’re considering the real deal.

Then the AR tech uses your phone’s camera, combined with your three ink marks, to position and overlay what might be your future tattoo. So you’re peeking through your smartphone screen at an alternative tattooed you. Which is about as useful as AR gets right now. (And, it must be said, a lot more useful than most VR content at this nascent stage…)

InkHunter lets you snap a photo of your AR tat too, for future ref or for sharing with your friends for a second opinion. This photo feature includes a few filters for lightly editing shots — including a blur effect (pictured above) which presumably mimics what your tattoo might look like after some years, i.e. when the lines aren’t quite so crisply defined. And your rational for getting that scorpion stamped on your shoulder may no longer be quite so clear…

Built by a team of software engineers based in the Ukraine, InkHunter started life as an idea born out of a 48 hour hackathon back in July 2014. Two of the original team decided to continue with the project after that, rewriting, resdesigning and launched an MVP as an iOS app around two weeks ago — so, caveat, it is still a little rough round the edges. And doesn’t always position your potential tat quite where you’d want it to go. But hey, this is only digital ink so it doesn’t really matter if things go a little wonky.

Dev priorities include working on the AR algorithm to improve performance, says CTO Pavlo Razumovskyi. “Last release we managed to adapt our algorithm to awry [inked on square] smiles, next step adapt it to different conditions: darkness, shadow, veins and so on. We are working not only on improving detection, but also accuracy and stability of tattoo position on skin.”

He says the team also intends to work on being able to overlay color tattoos. At present it only supports black and white. Other features in the pipeline include an adaptive custom sketch uploader, the ability to remove photos/sketches from the gallery (currently you can’t so — another caveat — any saved virtual tattoo try-ons are temporarily indelible… ), and navigation and search features for the tattoo gallery.

The app is free to download and use, but nudges users to buy tattoo artists’ designs if they try one and save a snap of it. The plan for monetization is to take a cut on any sales, although the future focus is likely to be more on bookings of specific tattoo artists, according Razumovskyi, rather than selling designs as he says artists generally prefer to ink their own designs.

“We are involving tattoo artists to connect them with our users. In doing so, our app will become a funnel which starts with people who are just thinking about tattoo and ends with those, who are confident in the tattoo they want and artists who can get it done,” he says, noting they are currently working with six tattoo artists.

“We just start develop our business model. Today we foresee it to be a 5-10% of booking deposit for tattoo artists, and fixed CPC for temporary tattoo services. But we have a few perspective ideas we going to test nearest few month,” he adds.

Given the hipster popularity of getting inked these days InkHunter’s app should be well positioned to find a following — assuming it can get more tattoo artists signed up to beef up the number of designs available for virtual try-on. Razumovskyi says early users have been asking for more tattoo designs and styles, and says the plan is to have 50 tattoo artists on board by the next release, along with a new way to browse among the gallery.

And fun though the virtual try on is, for now, I think I’m going to hold on off getting that snarling wolf tat for now…

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