Jessica Firger describes the cyberpunk underground science dungeon making history with a biosensor device, for Al Jazeera America:
PITTSBURGH — In the basement of a suburban two-story house on a quiet road just outside Pittsburgh, six mostly self-taught scientists tinker with an assortment of computer parts and electric equipment. They plan one day on becoming cyborgs — a future that may be closer than you think.
They are Grindhouse Wetware — three men and three women — and they describe themselves as a “ragtag group of programmers, engineers and enthusiasts” who build cybernetic devices. They find inspiration in both current technology and science fiction.
“I don’t want to go to space in a spaceship. I want to be a spaceship,” said Tim Cannon, Grindhouse’s 34-year-old co-founder whose basement serves as the group’s headquarters and scientific lab.
Today, at an international body-modification conference in Essen, Germany, Grindhouse will make history as the first in the DIY-science community — i.e., not affiliated with any academic institution or corporation — to develop and implant an interactive electronic device in a human being. The implantable biosensor is called Circadia and is slightly smaller than a credit card but thicker than the average paperback. Though it will cause the skin to bulge slightly, it won’t obstruct any vital functions or impact skeletal function. It is designed to sit between the skin and muscles in the forearm, where it will track and aggregate weeks of data on the person’s body temperature. Once synced to a smartphone, it will transmit that data to it via Bluetooth. To add to the coolness factor, the device has three red LEDs that glow through the skin that may be turned on and off remotely with the user’s phone.
Cannon, following a long line of scientists who have experimented on their own bodies over the centuries, will have Circadia implanted in his forearm under a tattoo he has of a DNA double helix. Roughly 300 people are expected to attend the conference — including a world-renowned body-modification artist, who will do the implantation at a private location — but no medical personnel. A number of things could go wrong: The silicone casing could break, or the battery could leak, releasing a fatal dose of alkaline solution into Cannon’s bloodstream. Even if he doesn’t die, he could lose his arm.
But Cannon and his team have spent two years perfecting the biosensor and testing it using industry-standard protocols; they think the risk is worth it. By sharing Circadia’s blueprint and schematics with the public, free of charge, they hope that others will customize the device, one day leading to significant advancements in medicine — for instance, the creation of an internal device for diabetics that tracks and regulates blood glucose levels, which does not yet exist. Cannon also envisions a heart monitor based on Grindhouse’s work that will release small doses of aspirin to prevent heart attacks…
[continues at Al Jazeera America]
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