by Pauli Poisuo
We're not exactly beginners when it comes to awesome sensory hacks, but we’re not what you'd call "experts," either. There are people out there who like them at least as much as we do, to the point that they’ve started physically hacking their own bodies with technology, in order to gain an edge over the usual human limitations.
Are their methods awesome or downright terrifying? We've gone over these entries a dozen times each, and we still can't decide.
The Eyeball Camera
Have you ever been in one of those situations where something hilarious or beautiful happened, and you think, "Damnit, I wish I would have recorded that?" Shooting video is easier than it's ever been, but sometimes, you're just not fast enough to whip out the phone and hit the record button before you've missed your opportunity to catch children flipping through the air like juggling clubs.
If you’re filmmaker Rob Spence, you could make sure your camera is always at the ready by straight-up replacing your eyeball with one.
Spence happened to have a blind eye taking up prime real estate in his socket, so he had it removed, replacing it with a specially built camera. If you think these are the actions of a man destined to gradually turn into a Terminator, the picture we’re about to show ... really, really isn’t going to make you feel any different.
Yes, of course he’s calling his modification “The Eyeborg Project”. We don’t know why you even bothered asking.
Once you get past the creepiness factor, the Eyeborg camera is actually a pretty sweet piece of gear. It’s a perfectly functional video camera that can basically turn your life into a POV feed. Also, it’s not wired to your brain or anything, so if you get tired of it, you can just remove it and go with the badass eye patch.
Remember Google Glass? The high-tech eyewear people hated so hard that Google had to bury it until AR technology may or may not turn it relevant again? There’s a reason it bombed, and it had a lot to do with buttheads who were now able (and absolutely willing) to take pictures with little regard to anyone’s privacy.
This is basically that, but embedded in your face.
"Surprise! There's a camera here and a camera h- where are you going?"
Social norms notwithstanding, there are some significant disadvantages to turning your eye into a camera. Having to lose an eye to install an eye-cam can obviously be a bit of a deal-breaker, and even if you currently happen to be boasting a spare eye socket, well, the camera-eye isn’t quite as aesthetically pleasing as you might think. Seriously, only click that link if you’re prepared to see a guy with a bunch of high tech LEGO bricks where the eye should be.
It’s not like you can just leave that sweet-ass red light on to mask the true awfulness of the Eyeborg, either. The video camera overheats after just 3 minutes of use, which we’re guessing isn’t the best user experience for a piece of technology currently lodging in your face.
Picking up objects with the power of magnetism seems like a power reserved exclusively for comic book characters, but aspiring body modifiers see it as a challenge. Of course, the simplest way to add that power to your repertoire is to implant tiny magnets in your fingertips. Duh.
Dude's a true pinball wizard.
Unfortunately, this plan didn’t quite work out as intended. While it is possible to use magnets to carry small knick knacks, doing it regularly causes the skin that gets pinched between the magnet and the object to die, and your body rejects the magnet.
However, much like how Viagra started out as heart medication, finger magnets went on to bigger and better things when people discovered that they give their owners a brand new sense: The magnets cause the fingers to tingle whenever they’re in the vicinity of a magnetic field, such as those generated by microwave ovens, speakers or anti-theft gateways.
You’re not about to terrorize the X-Men with these. In fact, your hands are far more likely to terrorize you. According to this less than proud owner of magnetic finger implants, they’re annoying as hell. After all, it’s 2018: Magnetic fields generated by machines are pretty much everywhere, so your implant is basically going to buzz non-stop, right in your fingertips and their countless nerve endings.
And that’s just the physical discomfort. The magnets are probably not strong enough to strip the stripes of your credit cards, but then again, this person describes how she sometimes accidentally demagnetizes her hotel key cards. And there's also the question of, "What if you need an MRI?" We don't know the answer to that, but we're pretty sure it's not "you become Magneto."
An Arm That Detects Earthquakes
A Catalan artist called Moon Ribas has an implant in her arm, giving her the ability to sense every earthquake that happens on the planet.
She mostly uses this superpower for performance art -- hey, being ahead of your time doesn’t necessarily mean you have the faintest idea of what to do with your skills. Her interpretative dance show is called Waiting for Earthquakes, and it’s specifically created around the earthquake implant. Basically, she stands motionless until she senses one, and then starts dancing. Her movements depend on the sensation the implant gives her, as the location and intensity of the quake are projected on a screen behind her.
"Not an earthquake. That was me. My bad. I'm so sorry."
Hey, do you know how many earthquakes there are every day? Around 50, counting all the tiny microquakes that humans can’t even feel (but the implant very much can). This means that your arm would buzz roughly every 10 minutes, and ... that’s pretty much it. You don’t get an indication of the scale of the quake, or even its direction, until you check the information from the online seismograph the implant is connected to (at the point where this information is already available to anyone).
If you were a superhero, you’d be called "Captain Something Is Happening Somewhere And It May Or May Not Be Dangerous," and your superpower would be the total inability to do anything about it.
She might not be the hero we want. But she's the hero we need.
To be fair, Ribas is aware of the limitations and, as of 2016, was planning to implant new sensors that enable her to tell the proximity of the earthquake. Going a step further, she also plans on getting sensors that help her sense moonquakes. She just needs to convince NASA to give her access to their satellite data in order to enhance her sick dance moves, or maybe acquire a moonquake sensor satellite of her own. How hard can that be?
Multi-Purpose Hand Implant Chips
Keys, E-Z pass devices, passports, credit cards, children ... if you've never lost at least one of these a dozen times over, you are not human. But what if you could always store your valuables close at hand? Close in hand, in fact. If you believe the Seattle company, Dangerous Things, a small multi-purpose RFID implant can replace it all -- and you’ll never lose it, provided your limbs stay where they’re supposed to.
OK, if they look exactly like that, we're ordering them all.
The RFID chips that you implant in your hand or wrist, are a sort of multipurpose identification/unlocking/communication tool. Need to open your door? It can function as a key card -- the inventor of the device, biohacking pioneer Amal Graafstra, uses his implant to unlock the door to his house. Passport control? The implant can contain the same information biometric passports do (though good luck getting through airport security without a real passport until these things become the norm). It could store your personal data, health stats, and even financial information.
It cannot, however, store children. Sorry to have insinuated that earlier.
It’s DIY. Meaning, they want you to install the chip, yourself. It’s only the size of a rice grain and they do sell the kit for it, but still ... expecting you to just shove your combined keys, ID and multipurpose communication chip inside your body and not nick a vein or accidentally cut your entire arm off seems like the kind of customer service that would make cable companies proud.
"Well, crap. I know yours is in here somewhere."
Of course, it doesn't help matters that RFID chips can be hacked pretty easily. This is decidedly not what we mean when we talk about body hacking.
We’re sick and tired of constantly losing our headphones, and companies aren’t exactly making things easier by stubbornly insisting that their ear buds be wireless. If only there was a way to make sure we can’t lose them ever again. Super glue, maybe? Or we could take things one step further and employ the method used by Rich Lee: Surgically implant magnets directly into your ears and turn them into headphones that you’ll always carry with you.
The magnet-headphones don’t work by themselves. Instead, they use electromagnetic induction, which means that Lee needs to wear a coil necklace contraption whenever he wants to use them (see video below).
To listen to music, he needs to plug his phone in the jack, which sends a current through an amplifier to the coil necklace made of copper magnet wiring. The wire coil generates a magnetic field that corresponds to the music, and the magnet implants react to that by moving gently. This vibrates the air nearest to his eardrum, and since sound is just vibrating air, Lee’s eardrum and brain interpret this as sound. Here's Lee showing how it works on his YouTube channel:
He can also use the contraption as a stethoscope of sorts by listening to people’s heartbeats with a contact microphone attachment. He’s also dabbling with directional mics that will allow him to listen to conversations across the room. Even echolocation is in the cards somewhere down the line.
Is this cool? Totally. Is it complicated as hell? Absolutely, especially as the actual sound quality is barely comparable to a set of cheap ear buds. Besides, that coil necklace defeats the whole point of subdermal hearing implants, as well as the very concept of coolness. You might as well glue puka shells to it and call it a day.
Still, as soon as he can figure out the echolocation thing, count us right in! Well, at least once they figure out how to get an actual medical professional to perform the procedure. Lee just had his done by a body modification artist, which ... doesn’t seem like the safest way to acquire a whole new sense.