When it comes to augmenting the human body, we’ve seen some serious sh—. Last time we checked in with biohackers, the team at Science for the Masses was turning a crew member into Riddick using chlorophyl eyedrops. But like any other creative industry, biohacking is ever-changing—and the latest trend is alight with science fiction implications. In collaboration with Dusseldorf’s Cyborg Fair, the biohackers at Grindhouse Wetware have unveiled their latest creation: a magnetically activated, LED implant called the Northstar V1.
The implant, made from surgical-grade silicone is about the size of a silver dollar (yes, all you millennials, that was once a thing), and resembles a miniature, red arc reactor. “People from the biohacking community wanted it,” the team told Motherboard. “They contacted us because they wanted to light up their tattoos. That’s how we generate our implants, we let the community inspire us.” Once inserted, the device can be activated with an external magnet, which triggers five LEDs to blink for 10 seconds. After the time has elapsed, Northstar returns to sleep mode until the user chooses to activate it again.
Grindhouse was founded back in 2012, by what was then a self-proclaimed “rag tag group of programmers, engineers, and enthusiasts” inspired by the biohack.me forums. Flash forward to now, and their goal is to conceptualize and create devices that can be recreated, using safe, affordable, and open source technology.
Of course the question on our minds is, “is it actually safe?” We’ll go on record saying that you should not operate on yourself, and the implants were inserted under the watchful eye of trained professionals. Like with subdermal implants used by traditional body modification shops, there is always a risk of infection or rejection—something that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
There’s also the issue of battery life. Though the implant is estimated to light up some 100,000 times before the internal batteries die, eventually it will need to be removed to replace them—something the team hopes to amend in version two.
Northstar 2.0 will also boast multiple colors, and, if Grindhouse co-founder Tim Cannon has anything to do with it, a smartphone app that will sync with the device. “[Imagine] you move your hand, the implant recognizes this, and sends the data to your smartphone,” he says. “You’ve already saved a command on your smartphone for this movement, like opening the car door for example. Then your smartphone communicates with your car and the door opens.”
The team also plans to integrate biometric data readers into their future devices, much like those found in a FitBit or Apple Watch. “We want to transform science fiction into reality,” explains Cannon. “To do so, it’s imperative that we have a decade-long study. The people at Grindhouse Wetware aren’t career academics. This is about passion and citizen science. Today our creations may still seem like niche products, but once we’ve succeeded at developing a cheap heart implant that automatically warns you before a heart attack, everyone will want our gadgets.”
Just where the project will go remains to be seen, but in the meantime, don’t be alarmed if you see glowing passersby on the street.
For more images of the procedure (read: this is surgery, click at your own risk) head over to Motherboard, or check out the video below:
Would you implant the Northstar under your skin? let us know in the comments.
IMAGES: Grindhouse Wetware