Biohackers are always looking for new ways to enhance their bodies with implantable technology, even if it’s for aesthetic purposes only. The newest augmenting trend involves having LED lights under the skin.
A group of three biohacking aficionados recently had a device called Northstar V1 implanted under the skin of their hands. About the size of a small coin, the chip is designed to emulate bioluminscence, the kind of light naturally produced by fireflies and some jellyfish. When activated by a magnet, the Northstar’s high-definition LEDs will light up in the shape of a star. The device is made up of a printed circuit board with five red Surface-Mounted-Device Light-Emitting Diodes (SMD LEDs) that become activated for 10 seconds whenever a magnet is placed near the included sensor. It is coated in silicone and powered by a 3 volt battery.
Photo: Ryan O’Shea/Grinhouse Wetwear/Facebook
Because such augmenting operations contravene the Hippocratic Oath, some biohackers carry out research and perform them themselves , while other rely on professional body modification artists, like Jowan Österlund. He recently implanted the Northstar V1 in the hands of three biohacking enthusiasts at a recent Cyborg Fair, in, Dusseldorf, Germany. He shaved and disinfected the men’s arms before making a small incision in the skin of their hands, inserting the chip and sewing up the skin.
Photo: Grindhouse Wetwear/Facebook
One of the men who got the Northstar V1 implanted was Tim Cannon, founder of Grindhouse Wetwear, the Pittsburgh company that came up with the device. Two years ago, he had a device about the size of a cigarette pack implanted under the skin of his arm. Called Circadia, it was designed to record data from his body and transfer the data to any Android-powered mobile device. Many people had apparently become excited about the Circadia’s LED lights shining from beneath Tim’s skin and wanted their own.
Photo: Nicholas Pinch/Facebook
“Many people who saw the lights were very excited. They have been waiting years for something like this,” Canon said. “They asked for them to be made available. We obliged. So, yes, this version of Northstar simply lights up.”
Shawn Sarver, another Grindhouse Wetwear employee who had the Northstar chip implanted in his hand, confirmed that there is a demand for it. “People from the biohacking community wanted it. They contacted us because they wanted to light up their tattoos. That’s how we generate our implants, we let the community inspire us,” he told VICE Motherboard.
For the moment, the device is limited to LED lighting, but Grindhouse Wetwear, hopes to upgrade its functionality, allowing wearers to control various devices using gestures. “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,” the company said in a press statement.
According to Grindhouse Wetwear, Northstar Version 2 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 LED.”