How to Have Glowing Skin, Literally


The phrase “your skin is glowing” just got a whole new meaning.

Grindhouse Wetware, a Pittsburgh-based biohacking collective (reading about these guys introduced me a to a subculture I never knew existed), just unveiled their latest creation—a magnetically activated, LED-equipped silicone implant.

The new device, dubbed the Northstar V1, is about the size of a large coin. Once implanted and activated, the Northstar device is supposed to emulate bioluminescence, the kind of light produced by animals like fireflies and some jellyfish. It could also be used to backlight existing tattoos. When a magnet is placed on the device, its five LED lights start to blink. After ten seconds, it goes back into sleep mode. The Grindhouse guys think it’ll light up about 10,000 times before the batteries die out and can no longer be recharged.

The implant should hit the market next year. Several dozen, possibly even 100, Northstar chips will be sold through tattoo studios worldwide to inclined body modifiers.

A future version of the Northstar, based on the chips implanted today, will deliver biometric data in addition to lighting up, according to Grindhouse co-founder Tim Cannon. That means it will take blood pressure or blood sugar levels, for example. As a transhumanist (again, not really sure what that means), Cannon’s doesn’t want to leave his fate up to his consciousness and cognition.

“I can’t really rely on my brain,” he says. “But I can rely on the data my body produces. Today our creations may still seem like niche products, but once we’ve succeeded at developing a cheap heart implant that automatically warns you before a heart attack, everyone will want our gadgets.”

I’ve never been a fan of tattoos, so I can’t imagine ever wanting something as invasive as this. (To steal a line from comedian Sebastian Maniscalco, “People ask me all the time, ‘Sebastian, why don’t you get a tattoo?’  I don’t put bumper stickers on Ferraris.”)

But I will admit that I admire these guys for being out on the bleeding edge (literally, and figuratively) of biometrics, and their willingness to use themselves as guinea pigs.

I am sure that Grindhouse will have no trouble selling 100 of these chips, in fact I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a waiting list to get one of the first ones available. I can imagine people wanting to use the chip to light up the eyes of one of their tattoos. Or perhaps having a chip implanted in their forehead so it looks like they have a third eye, one that can glow in the dark. I think if I saw something like that walking towards me late at night, there’s a good chance I would faint on the spot.

Perhaps Santa could be one of the first clients, implanting the chips into all his reindeer. Why just rely on Rudolph for all your lighting needs?

If you would like to read more about the technology behind the chip or what these guys at Grindhouse are up to, here is a link to the first story about the Northstar V1, from Motherboard. Please note that there are some graphic images of the implant process. You’ve been warned…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.