CyberPunk Yourself – Body Modification, Augmentation, and Grinders

“We accept pain as a price of doing business, even if it is just for aesthetic purposes. You want to put a magnet in your finger, a doctor will ask you why; a mod artist will ask when you can start.” As with many other people who are part of the growing grinder movement, [Adam] has taken a step that many would consider extreme – he’s begun to augment his body.

Grinders – men and women who hack their own bodies – are pushing the boundaries of what is currently possible when it comes to human augmentation. They’re hackers at heart, pursuing on an amateur level what they can’t get from the consumer market. Human augmentation is a concept that is featured heavily in science fiction and futurism, but the assumption most people have is that those kinds of advancements will come from medical or technology companies.

Instead, we’re seeing augmentation begin in the basements of hackers and in the back rooms of piercing studios. The domain of grinders is the space where body modification and hacking meet. It mixes the same willingness to modify one’s body that is common among the tattooed and pierced, and adds an interest in hacking technology that you find in hackerspaces around the world. When those two qualities intersect, you have a potential grinder.

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Push Blood Pressure Data To The Cloud Via ESP8266

[Eduardo] contacted us about his success at connecting a blood pressure monitor to the web. He pulled this off by locating the chip responsible for storing the blood pressure data after being measured. It was a simple I2C EEPROM from which he dumped the data a sniffed communications with a 4 bit logic analyzer. [Eduardo] published all of his findings on that communication scheme so check out his post for more on that. The gist of it is that he implemented his reverse engineered protocol using an ESP8266, the ubiquitous cheap WiFi board that has become a go-to for web-connected anything like power monitors and underpowered but awesome server farms. Check out the Hackaday Dictionary entry for more on this board.

[Eduardo] is not the first on the scene with such a device, you can see a Withings device and a blipcare device available on Amazon. What this hack from [Eduardo] does provide is evidence of a much cheaper route for connecting vital medical data from a geographically distant, and perhaps technophobic family member. Lets take a walk down hypothetical lane, shall we? Uncle Bob in Albuquerque who doesn’t have any local family might be a good candidate for such a hacked device, everyone knows it’s like pulling teeth to get elderly family members to report some health information to loved ones… but with [Eduardo’s] hack it’s simple. Embed the hardware (assuming you know the login creds ahead of time) into a new BPM, send it to him as a gift, and Bob’s your uncle.

We haven’t seen too many blood pressure monitor hacks, but one entry from the Hackaday Prize dubbed “the pain machine” included monitoring the user’s blood pressure. We also covered an interesting hack on monitoring your heart rate with a piezo element.

A quick demo of [Edward’s] cuff is found below.

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Can You Hear Me Now?

It’s great to build projects just to do something neat, to learn; to impress friends and other hackers. It’s even better to address a real need.

I’ve worn hearing aids for 40 some years. My response to the question “Can you hear me now?” is still all too often, “No.” Because of this I heartily applaud the Aegis Acoustics Headset currently active on Kickstarter. I’m happy to see it’s blown through its goal with over a month left.

The Aegis is targeted at prevent hearing loss, primarily in teens since they use headsets so often. It’s equally applicable to adults and pre-teens. The Aegis works by limiting the sound level emitted to 85db, which is a safe level. Above that the risk of damage to the tiny hairs in the cochlea – the inner ear – increases dramatically with a 3db increase cutting the safety time in half.

Future’s So Bright I’ve Got to Wear ‘Aids

My personal experience explains why this is important. At my first professional level job as a software developer I noticed that people at the other end of the table often mumbled during meetings. Not really, because everyone else understood them fine. I needed hearing aids.

My first hearing aids were analog devices. There were three frequency bands across the audio spectrum whose volumes could be custom set for my ears — resulting in crude and limited improvements in what I could hear. My current hearing aids are technological marvels of digital signal processing with a multitude of algorithms the audiologist can use to help me hear better. They even coordinate their actions by communicating between themselves.

I still need to ask people to repeat what they say at times. But who doesn’t? I had a successful career despite my loss. But it is still a royal pain-in-the-butt to miss out on one-third of the dialog in a movie, to not go to a local coffee house because I won’t understand the lyrics or comments by the musicians, and miss out on all the other small parts of life along these lines.

Hacking for Hearing

There are a range of areas where hackers could contribute and not just in assisting individuals, like myself, who personally gain from technological assistance.

Consider how the cell phone improved communications in developing countries. Using radio communications the countries avoided the need to string thousands of miles of wires. That saved the expense and the decades of construction time. It’s easier to get cell phone service than water in some locations. It’s important to notice that it didn’t come about because of a big plan. It came about as an unseen consequence of a technical development.

“We can rebuild him…we have the technology” is from the opening of an old TV series and movies, “The 6 Million Dollar Man” and has found it’s place in the pop-culture vocabulary. But it rings true. We have the technology. We have the tools. We have the expertise. We’re hackers and builders. We and the technology are all over the place. We’re a solution looking for a problem.

Devices that Extend the Body

All signs point to a coming revolution of devices that protect our bodies and make them work better. The 2015 Hackaday Prize theme is Build Something That Matters and that sentiment is obviously taking hold throughout the hardware hacker movement. The Aegis headphones I mentioned above are one example of preventive devices, but look around and there are many more like the UV-Badge which gives you feedback on safe levels of sunlight for your skin.

Surely we’re going to see further augmentation for the devices that help restore function. Wearables are all the rage, how long will it be before your smartwatch notification functions make it into my hearing aids? Imagine the improvements we will see in custom hearing profiles born of that smartphone-hearing aid connection. The foundations of this are user-controlled profile switching which is already in place for apps like Belltone’s HearPlus. If the advanced electronics in the smartphone can build a better noise profile and transfer it to the hearing aid my visits to the coffee shop just might get a lot better. And this doesn’t mean the devices need to look the same either. I love the Design Affairs Studio hearing aid concept that is shown at the top of this article. Hardware can be a status symbol after all.

This type of forward thinking easily extends to all assistive technologies such as wheelchair improvements and navigation systems for the blind.

As you look toward your next big hack, roll these concepts around in your mind. The tools, software, and talent have never been easier to connect for our group of citizen scientists who are hacking in basements and garages. It’s exciting to think about the change we can affect using the skills honed over the past decades of this hardware enlightenment we’re all living.

Hackaday Prize Semifinalist: Individualized Breathing Apparatus

Preterm infants frequently require ventilator support while they’re in the neonatal ICU, and this is usually done with a CPAP machine. The machine to infant interface is called a nasal cannula, a bit of plastic that connects an infant’s nose to the machine. Because there aren’t that many sizes of nasal cannula available, and preemies come in all sizes, there are inevitable problems. Ill-fitting nasal cannula can reduce the effectiveness of a CPAP, and can even cause significant damage to an infant’s septum.

For his Hackaday Prize entry, [Ben] is tackling this problem head on. He’s working on creating individualized nasal cannula for newborns using 3D modeling and printing, allowing nasal cannula of all shapes and sizes to be created in a matter of hours.

To create these customized cannula, [Ben] is 3D scanning an infant mannequin head to gather enough data to import it into a Processing sketch. A custom cannula is then created and printed with flexible 3D printer filament. In theory, it should work, apart from the considerations involved in building a medical device.

As for why custom plastic tubes matter, [Ben] works at the only NICU in Western Australia. Even though he only sees 8-10 CPAP ‘pressure injuries’ in his unit each year, these kids are extremely fragile and some parents have expressed a desire for something that isn’t as uncomfortable for their newborn than the off-the-shelf solution. Customizing these cannula from a quick 3D scan is a great way to do that, and a perfect example of the Hackaday Prize theme of ‘build something that matters.’

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Hackaday Prize Semifinalist: OpenBionics Affordable Prosthetic Hands

The human hand is an amazing machine, and duplicating even a fraction of its abilities in a prosthetic is a daunting task. Flexible anthropomorphic prosthetics can reach tens of thousands of dollars and are beyond the means of many of the people who need them. So imagine the impact a $200USD prosthetic hand could have.

For such a low, low price you might expect a simple hook or pincer grip hand, but the OpenBionics initiative designed their hand from the outset to mimic the human hand as much as possible. The fingers are Plexiglas with silicone knuckles that are flexed by tendon cables running in sheaths and extended by energy stored in elastomeric material running along their dorsal aspects. Each finger can be selectively locked in place using a differential based on the whiffletree mechanism, resulting in 16 combinations of finger positions with only a single motor. Combined with 9 unique thumb positions, 144 unique grasp are possible with the open source hand built from hardware store and 3D printed parts. Stay tuned for a video of the hand in action after the break.

3D printing is beginning to prove it’s the next big thing in prosthetics. Hackers are coming up with all kinds of static artificial hands, from the elegant to super-hero themed. Maybe the mechanism that OpenBionics has come up with will find its way into these hands – after all, it is an open source project.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

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Hack Your Rib Cage with Titanium 3D Printing

A Spanish hospital recently replaced a significant amount of a man’s rib cage and sternum with a titanium replacement. Putting titanium inside people’s chests is nothing new, but what made this different was the implant was 3D printed to match his existing bone structure.

An Australian company, Anatomics, created the 3D print from high-resolution CT scans of the patient. They used a printer provided by an Australian Government corporate entity, CSIRO, that helps bring technology to Australian companies.

Biomedical printing has been in the news quite a bit lately and we’ve covered CT scan to 3D model conversions more than once. Is this the dawn of the age of the cyborg? Maybe it’s really mid morning. Many people walk around with pacemakers, Vagus nerve stimulators, and plenty of more conventional titanium hardware in them now.

While the ethics of replacing a cancer patient’s rib cage is pretty clear, the real issue will be when people want enhancements just for the sake of it (think of the controversy surrounding runners with prosthetic legs, for example). It might seem far-fetched, but as replacements become better than originals, some people will want to opt for replacements for perfectly good body parts.

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Hackaday Prize Semifinalist: Smart Medication Dispenser

The biggest problems with pharmaceuticals isn’t patents, industry reps, or the fact that advertisement to consumers is allowed; this only happens in the United States. No, the biggest problem with pills and medications is compliance, or making sure the people who are prescribed medication take their medication. For his Hackaday Prize entry, [Joe] is working on a solution. It’s a smart desktop medicine organizer, and you can think of it as a pill box with smarts.

The list of features of [Joe]’s organizer include automatic pill organization – each prescription is accessed independently of all the others. When it’s time to take a pill, the smart medication dispenser plops out a pill. You can check out the demo video [Joe] put together using M&M candies.

There are a few more features for the Smart Desktop Medicine Organizer, including connecting to pharmacy APIs to order refills, checking for drug interactions, and setting timers (or not) for different medications; meds that should be taken every day will be dispensed every day, but drugs taken as needed up to a maximum limit will be dispensed as needed.

It’s a very cool project, and you can check out [Joe]’s video for the project below.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

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