The Freerunners of Wearables

The Freerunners of Wearables

Stewart Da'Silva - Senior Designer, Product Design

By: Stewart Da’Silva
Senior Designer, Product Design

19th July 2017

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Is the push for new technologies, such as wearables, and the immersive technology of Virtual Reality (VR), a means of us short-cutting natural evolution? Is this the start of a journey where we will enhance our natural abilities with various wearables marketed as specific desirable traits?

Rubbish! I can hear you say – but consider this.

For a millennium, Mother Nature has advanced our capabilities in her own slow, haphazard way – it takes generations for what we would perceive as “needed developments” to take place within our bodies. We are impatient and technology serves as a way of supplementing the limitations that nature has imposed upon us.

Globally, we have already travelled quite a way down that road.

Generally, we no longer walk anywhere – vehicles have become our legs. Our intellect, in various degrees of reliance, has become our smartphone or tablet. Who needs a good memory when we can depend on an internet search engine? Imagination? Why not just slip on your VR headset and become immersed within an installed experience of your choice.

For all the examples above, wearables are rapidly becoming mandatory in order for us to function. They are now becoming more personal – monitoring our pulse, our blood pressure, how active we are and other indicators of health and wellbeing.

What of the future? In some quarters, wearables have moved into semi-permanent implants, from mini defibrillators that monitor the heart for abnormal rhythms and correct them, through to implantable Radio Frequency Identifiers (RFIDs).

Kevin Warwick, the Professor of Cybernetics at the University of Reading, was the first person to have a RFID implanted into his own hand. Inserted by a trained medical staff member, the implant enables him to use card reading doors and to control lighting. Another one of his firsts was to have a device implanted into his median nerves that linked his nervous system directly to a computer, programming a robotic arm to exactly mimic his own arm movements.

Now we come to ‘freerunning’ wearables.

There are people out there that are experimenting with ‘off-grid’ wearable implants to heighten and augment sensations within and outside their own bodies. They call themselves grinders, biohackers or body hackers and many of them manufacture and insert the wearable implants themselves. The favoured wearable for biohackers is a magnet that is implanted into various parts on the body, usually on the end of a finger.

These wearable magnets can detect magnetic fields emanating from various sources. Microwave ovens or power lines, for example, cause the implanted magnets to vibrate against the adjacent nerves – giving the grinder a ‘sixth sense’. It also means that they can attract light ferrous based objects without physical touching them… magic!

Grinders aren’t only about ‘sixth sense’ stuff – some have a personal objective to enhance or correct what nature has dealt them. Some of these wearable implants, like Warwick’s experiments, could in the near future prove mainstream.

For example, in conjunction with the wearable implanted magnets, the ‘Bottlenose’ device can be slid over the ‘magnet finger’. Bottlenose, a project by open source biotechnology company Grindhouse Wetware, mimics the sonar echolocation that the dolphin of the same name uses. This device sends out electromagnetic pulses and the implanted magnets are extremely sensitive to the returning waves. Vibration intensity also increases the closer the subject is to the obstacle. With practice, a mental picture can be formed of the shape and distance of surrounding objects.

The implications are obvious, people with sight loss could ‘see’ again using a refined version of Bottlenose. However, what if the whole wearable device could be miniaturised? Perhaps it could become a mainstream wearable implant in its own right?

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Is the push for new technologies, such as wearables, and the immersive technology of Virtual Reality (VR), a means of us short-cutting natural evolution? Is this the start of a journey where we will enhance our natural abilities with various wearables marketed as specific desirable traits?

Rubbish! I can hear you say – but consider this.

For a millennium, Mother Nature has advanced our capabilities in her own slow, haphazard way – it takes generations for what we would perceive as “needed developments” to take place within our bodies. We are impatient and technology serves as a way of supplementing the limitations that nature has imposed upon us.

Globally, we have already travelled quite a way down that road.

Generally, we no longer walk anywhere – vehicles have become our legs. Our intellect, in various degrees of reliance, has become our smartphone or tablet. Who needs a good memory when we can depend on an internet search engine? Imagination? Why not just slip on your VR headset and become immersed within an installed experience of your choice.

For all the examples above, wearables are rapidly becoming mandatory in order for us to function. They are now becoming more personal – monitoring our pulse, our blood pressure, how active we are and other indicators of health and wellbeing.

What of the future? In some quarters, wearables have moved into semi-permanent implants, from mini defibrillators that monitor the heart for abnormal rhythms and correct them, through to implantable Radio Frequency Identifiers (RFIDs).

Kevin Warwick, the Professor of Cybernetics at the University of Reading, was the first person to have a RFID implanted into his own hand. Inserted by a trained medical staff member, the implant enables him to use card reading doors and to control lighting. Another one of his firsts was to have a device implanted into his median nerves that linked his nervous system directly to a computer, programming a robotic arm to exactly mimic his own arm movements.

Now we come to ‘freerunning’ wearables.

There are people out there that are experimenting with ‘off-grid’ wearable implants to heighten and augment sensations within and outside their own bodies. They call themselves grinders, biohackers or body hackers and many of them manufacture and insert the wearable implants themselves. The favoured wearable for biohackers is a magnet that is implanted into various parts on the body, usually on the end of a finger.

These wearable magnets can detect magnetic fields emanating from various sources. Microwave ovens or power lines, for example, cause the implanted magnets to vibrate against the adjacent nerves – giving the grinder a ‘sixth sense’. It also means that they can attract light ferrous based objects without physical touching them… magic!

Grinders aren’t only about ‘sixth sense’ stuff – some have a personal objective to enhance or correct what nature has dealt them. Some of these wearable implants, like Warwick’s experiments, could in the near future prove mainstream.

For example, in conjunction with the wearable implanted magnets, the ‘Bottlenose’ device can be slid over the ‘magnet finger’. Bottlenose, a project by open source biotechnology company Grindhouse Wetware, mimics the sonar echolocation that the dolphin of the same name uses. This device sends out electromagnetic pulses and the implanted magnets are extremely sensitive to the returning waves. Vibration intensity also increases the closer the subject is to the obstacle. With practice, a mental picture can be formed of the shape and distance of surrounding objects.

The implications are obvious, people with sight loss could ‘see’ again using a refined version of Bottlenose. However, what if the whole wearable device could be miniaturised? Perhaps it could become a mainstream wearable implant in its own right?

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save