Gemma Styles | Contributing writer | Saturday, 7 January 2017

gemma 7 jan

Gemma Styles: Is 2017 The Year Of The Cyborg?

The Debrief: Weirdly, I kind of hope so...

Photo by Matilda Hill-Jenkins

Happy new year! Hope your resolutions are going well; I had a vague musing in my head that I was going to be healthier this year but then I got ill in week one so I feel like the universe is telling me not to bother. Stupid tonsils. Anyway - aside from the inevitable casting aside of millions of resolutions, what does this year have in store for us? I mused on some predictions for the online world in 2017 at the end of last year, but what else is there? Out there. IRL… 

Turns out there’s plenty kicking off in technology outside of social media - but it’s sticking with the classic January theme of ‘self-improvement’. Nothing to do with drinking more juices, running marathons or bullet journalling (no thank you), this upgrade is more of a physical add on. As in plugging small devices into your actual body and upgrading yourself to new, super-human abilities. Whaaaaat? 

There is one piece of equipment I’m talking about specifically; if you’re one of the people who preordered a North Sense device from Cyborg Nest, then you’re about to be a human compass. The North Sense is a small, silicone device which is attached to the chest using two titanium bars, implanted underneath the skin. Described as an ‘artificial sense organ,’ the matchbox-sized gadget will deliver a short vibration every time the wearer faces North. ‘But what’s the use in that?’ I hear you cry, ‘What do I look like, a pigeon?’ At first thought I might agree with you - wandering around with your chest-buzz going off when you’re not bothered where North is sounds more annoying than anything else - but the point is that this is a serious step forward in wearable tech for the mainstream user. We’re not talking a smart watch here, this is physically installed as part of your body. 

Cyborg Nest, the terrifyingly named company who makes the device, have thought carefully about the usability for your average person. They didn't want to make something that you’d order and then have to hunt high and low for a doctor who may or may not wish to insert it for you. The bars that attach the device are designed so that any qualified piercer can easily follow the instructions to get you up and running. They’ve made other things too, that you can’t buy yet - of the five company founders, two are currently testing the North Sense, but others have their own modifications - one has a sensor in her elbow that vibrates every time there’s an earthquake anywhere on the planet. Another is colourblind, so instead has a device in his ear that allows him to ‘hear’ the light spectrum. CRAZY. 

 

These are small abilities, but nonetheless they are things that humans, in general, aren’t capable of. We’re adding senses and capacities to our experience of the world, which I think is fascinating; we can already adjust our bodies with things like pacemakers, allowing a more healthy human experience, but it seems that we’re now moving beyond just fixing problems and actually adding in entirely new features. Will 2017 be the year of the cyborg? Will I be able to install my TV remote in my index finger? Will my little toe vibrate to remind me when everything at my nearest Itsu becomes half price? Let’s hope so. 

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Follow Gemma on Twitter @GemmaAnneStyles 

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