Becoming a cyborg

Illustration by Ed Appleby
Illustration by Ed Appleby

Robotic cosmetic implants

By Brittney MacDonald, Life & Style Editor

If you’re like me, you’ve probably often spent your free time contemplating what it would be like to replace or enhance your squishy human flesh with robotic parts. Yes my friends, I’m talking about becoming a cyborg. To me, and many others, cyborgs are something you generally only encounter in television or books, but believe it or not there is actually a growing community of cyborgs worldwide.

To be clear, when I use the term cyborg I am referring to people who have undergone elective surgery to “enhance” themselves in a technological manner. I am not referring to people with robotic limbs due to birth defects or amputation, nor am I referring to people who have undergone cosmetic surgery that introduced “foreign” substances or prosthetics to enhance their human appearance, such as breast augmentation or lip injections.

These early stage cyborgs call themselves “biohackers,” and, for now, they generally only modify themselves with chip implants and subdermal magnets. These chip implants can do a variety of simple tasks from monitoring body temperature and other life signs, to activating a subdermal LED to freak out the neighborhood kids, and unlocking their mobile devices. Subdermal magnets tend to only give you Magneto-like powers to pick up paper clips or sense magnetic fields around you as easily as you would touch a wall. I will admit I was a little unimpressed, but to be fair, all the technology used is relatively new and there’s much more in development.

Recently, Grindhouse Wetware released their device, the Northstar v1, a circular implant that goes on the back of the hand. When activated by a magnet, either a magnet implant located in a different part of the body, or an external magnet, the implant will light up with a ring of LED lights, giving off a very cylon or terminator effect. Although the V1 is purely cosmetic, the company is currently developing an implant that will allow its owner to control smart phones and other mobile devices with their gestures alone, but for now the V1 is purely cosmetic. According to a press release put out by Grindhouse Wetware: “Northstar V1, much like piercings and cosmetic surgeries, is purely for aesthetic purposes. It is a simple device that will prove the possibility of implanting technology in the body and will pave the way for more advanced and functional augmentations.” Grindhouse claims that their V2 model will be a “…rechargeable device that adds gesture recognition and Bluetooth capabilities, enabling users to control electronic devices with hand movements, as well as add patterns or color variations to [the] LED.”

All in all, it’s some pretty amazing stuff, and it means that one day in the near future, those advanced cyborgs of every sci-fi geek’s dreams might become a reality. For now, I think I’ll hold off on getting any modifications myself. I’m waiting for the smart phone that can be implanted in your arm so you never lose it or leave it on the bus.