Body modification, for the most part, is a decorative practice. Which I don’t think is a bad or frivolous thing! Body mods can help a person feel completed and more like themselves, whether the piece is functional or not.
But imagine the nearly endless possibilities of functional body mods! Some people already are, with some really amazing innovations.
Take Anthony Antonelli, the man with the first ‘digital tattoo’: an RFID chip that’s implanted in his hand.
The RFID chip allows Antonelli to store digital art on his person at all times. Antonelli can access what’s stored on the chip using his cellphone and display it on-screen. He can also add and change content stored on the clip through use of his cellphone.
While currently limited to personal remote access, Antonelli is working on expanding the chip’s capabilities. He is working on an app that will allow him to download the chip’s content onto an Android device without being online. He also plans on using Arduino, an open platform, to make interactive objects using the chip’s content:
“With Arduino I can build stand-alone digital displays that can receive and showcase the chip content. The GIF storage is using just one possibility of the implant and there are lots of others I’m excited to explore.”
Another digital modification innovator is Jim Mielke. Mielke has designed a wireless, touch screen dermal implant that, get this: runs off blood.
That’s right, the man has created a smart phone designed to work under your skin because it’s powered by blood. Talk about being unable to disconnect!
Jokes aside, this is pretty cool. The screen is made out of a thin sheet of 2×4 silicon that is tightly rolled up and slid into a small incision and slowly unrolled until flat. Two tubes attached to the screen are connected to an artery and a vein to power the small blood-fueled power cell and maintain natural blood flow.
And this biologically-powered tech is capable of taking and displaying video calls, communicating with other Bluetooth devices, AND is touch screen. Although it’s not currently headed to commercialization, the excitement is real.
One final digital body mod that I’m super excited about are electronic tattoos. And while that sounds like morphing digital tattoos, they’re actually medically based.
The name electronic tattoos is slightly misleading, since they are more akin to temporary tattoos. More correctly called epidermal electronics, these patches are composed of coils of tiny silicon wires that connect to all functional portions of the device. Being silicon-based, they are able to stay on the skin for several days.
Early epidermal tattoos monitored muscle, heart, and brain activity, and the developers are working on expanding their capabilities to pregnancy motoring and muscle stimulation. Developer Dr. John A. Rogers has also made them implantable, able to stretch the electronics onto a balloon catheter to insert into and monitor the heart.
While these epidermal electronics are not widely available, Dr. Rogers has high hopes for their future. He sees them as being huge assets in rehabilitation, in improving the use of prosthetic limbs, and in controlling machinery. If Dr. Rogers’ predictions are correct, the line between man and machine will be significantly blurred.
But that is part of the thrill of body modification – blurring the lines between what’s natural and what’s possible.