Back when I got an RFID implant put into my left hand, the first guy to interview me was Shannon Larratt from BMEZine. We loosely kept in touch for a while after that, and he mentioned to me the relatively new concept of obtaining a sixth sense through the implantation of magnets in the fingertips. The idea is simple; implant a small but powerful magnet into the highly sensitive tissue of the fingertip and see if you can detect magnetic fields caused by natural and electrical forces. Today, a select few have undergone the implant procedure and use them today, at least until the protective coating around the magnets fail.
One such adventurer who has undergone a magnetic implant procedure (interview) and subsequent sheath failure is Quinn Norton. Like me, Quinn seems very interested in obtaining new sensory capabilities through technology and experimentation. Recently she obtained a new sense in the form of a biofeedback compass and was set loose in DC and San Francisco.
The ultimate adventurer in external senses has to be Professor Kevin Warwick. This man implanted a one hundred electrode array into the median nerve fibers of the left arm. The two hour procedure involved firing the microelectrode array into the median nerve fibers below the elbow joint. A number of experiments have been carried out using the nerve signals detected by the array, most notably Professor Warwick was able to control an electric wheelchair and an intelligent artificial robot hand using this neural interface. What caught my attention though, was the fact that the implant was able to create artificial sensation by stimulating individual electrodes within the array. From there, he’s gone on to make real what was only in science fiction a few years ago… stuff like cultured neural cells (brain cells) that are connected directly to robotic “bodies” with robotic motion and robotic sensors… and just like his own brain learned to cope with, identify, then integrate the new signals coming from his microelectrode array, the neural cultures began exploring and interacting with the world not with biological bodies, but with robotic ones. I look forward to meeting this incredible man next year at the 2010 IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society.