Cyborgs Are Coming! Biohackers Implant LEDs Under The Skin

Fitness bracelets and Apple Watches are passé. Tattoos that shine LED lights from implanted computer chips are the new thing, courtesy of biohackersGrindhouse Wetware 2

Grindhouse Wetware, a Pittsburgh, Pa.-based biohacking collective, has developed a skin implant that includes LED lights, according to Motherboard. The purpose of the Northstar implant is to emulate bioluminescence, a type of light that fireflies and certain jellyfish produce.

Shawn Sarver, who works on the development team, said the collective was contacted by people in the biohacking community who wanted to light up their tattoos.

Tim Cannon, the collective’s co-founder, has worn such an implant for two years and claims the process is safe.

Implant Process Takes 15 Minutes

Jowan Osterlund, who runs a tattoo studio in Sweden, performed a recent Northstar implant. He drew a line on a person’s skin and made an incision with a small scalpel. The implant is about as thick as a thumb. The process took 15 minutes.

One operation took place at the Dusseldorf Cyborg Fair last Saturday while three took place in Pittsburgh.

Sarver, who received the implant from Osterlund, recently demonstrated the chip’s capabilities. He placed a magnet on the implant, causing it to light up. The magnet activated five red LEDs in the implant, causing his forearm to shine for 10 seconds.

Sarver said the implant will illuminate 10,000 times before the batteries die. The implants automatically go into sleep mode after they illuminate, preserving battery power.

Cannon, who carries a scar on his left arm from his last implant, recently received another implant. He said his previous implant was the size of a pack of cigarettes, which he said was too big.

Transforming Science Fiction Into Reality

Grindhouse Wetware 3The group wants to transform science fiction into reality, Cannon said. In order to do this, a decade-long study is needed. He noted that Grindhouse Wetware is not an organization of career academics. Instead, they are driven by passion and citizen science.

The biohackers don’t envision finding support from the medical research community.

The Northstar implants were initially to take place in Essen at, a body modification conference. However, the chip casings, one of the most sensitive components in the implants, didn’t arrive in time from the test lab. The casings are important since they prevent direct contact between the chip and the body.

Grindhouse Wetware raised capital from an investor last year and will focus on serving the body modification market.

Also read: Neurosurgeon implants a computer into his brain

Implant To Become Available Soon

The implant is expected to become available to the market next year. As many as 100 Northstar chips worldwide through tattoo studios.

A future Northstar will bring biometric data such as blood sugar levels in addition to illumination, Cannon said.

Grindhouse Wetware has already developed a second version of the Northstar chip. Cannon now wants to develop a wireless motion controller with the implant. The chip, like a Wii controller, will recognize movement and command a smartphone via Bluetooth. This would resemble a Siri – a computer program that works as an intelligent personal assistant and knowledge navigator that is part of Apple’s iOS – but would include programmable gesture control.

When the hand moves, the implant would send data to the smartphone, which would  then activate a programmed command like opening a car door.

Images from Grindhouse Wetware/Facebook.

Lester Coleman is a veteran business journalist based in the United States. He has covered the payments industry for several years and is available for writing assignments.