Give Yourself A Sixth Sense On The Cheap


Hackaday regular [Mikey Sklar] is no stranger to body modifications. He enjoys tweaking his body in ways that help him with day to day tasks, including a ruler tattoo on his arm and an RFID chip embedded in the web of his hand. Lately, he has been toying around with a less invasive means of getting a better feel for magnetic fields in his surroundings.

Turned on to magnetic rings by a friend, he now wears an epoxy-coated rare earth ring every day, changing the way he interacts with the world. He says that besides the obvious ability to tell when he’s near iron-heavy material, he can also feel cell phone calls, as the speaker draws the ring closer while producing sound.

He says that holding the electric cord of his tea kettle gave him the biggest start, making him feel as if he had been electrocuted, minus the actual shock.

While it’s not the most high-tech hack, [Mikey] is quite happy with the “sixth sense” this reasonably price ring has been able to provide – we just might have to try it out ourselves.

71 thoughts on “Give Yourself A Sixth Sense On The Cheap

    1. It’s true that health risks of long-term exposition to such magnetic field are not well known, but there are known problems with atracting natural metal in blood. So you better put this off at least when you are sleeping.

      1. Interestingly I heard a claim from an MRI researcher once that one of the big limits on MRI was the propensity for the things to stimulate the nervous system. MRI’s rely not only on a huge static field, but on a smaller skewing field. Apparently, if the temporal gradient on the skewing field was great enough this could stimulate action potentials in nerves, particularly large peripheral nerve axons. Needless to say this causes all sorts of problems when you are trying to take an image, so the researchers need to rely on larger spatial gradients rather than temporal gradients, hence the persistent need for increasing the size of the huge static coils in an MRI system.

        This has nothing to do with blood, your comments just reminded me of it and I thought the HAD crowd might enjoy it. Cheers

    2. The iron is human blood is so sparse and so weakly magnetic that you won’t see any effects from it. Heck… You get more magnetic exposure from cell phones and WiFi, since those fields will cover your entire body.

      And these are smaller than those magnet bracelets some people wear.

      1. It’s not clear to me that reducing viscosity is necessarily a good thing. I had a professor in undergrad that worked in blood substitutes with the goal of eventually creating a synthetic supply for trauma centers and the like. He used to claim that previous substitutes had failed because they assumed that low viscosity was a good thing, and the patients all went into shock due to the apparent drop in pressure at the aortic arch due to the lowered flow resistance, making these substitutes no better than a saline infusion.

        The human circulatory system is full of all kinds of sensors, and blood is a fascinatingly non-newtonian fluid (it’s viscosity actually drops as fluid shear rates increase). My understanding was always that the human body was tuned for certain mechanical properties in the circulatory system, and messing with them was asking for trouble.

        That said, many others have already pointed out that the effects of a static magnet are unlikely to have any real effect on the little iron that is actually in blood

    3. If a ring like that could mess with your blood then we’d all be messed up good because of the constant exposure to all kinds of magnetic fields we go through.
      And MRI machines would not exist at all of course, except in texas to execute people maybe.

  1. Could modify his ‘interaction’ with credit cards
    or usb flash sticks too.

    @question, not sure if the coordination, spin-state
    of Fe in haemoglobin is magnetic, in any case
    tbere are too few Fe per red blood cell for the
    magnet to overcome fluid dynamics in blood vessels.

    1. USB sticks and flash memory chips are largely unaffected by magnets. It would take a seriously powerful magnet to erase a chip like that, and it would probably occur by any ferromagnetic parts in the chip tearing it apart.

    2. It indeed won’t affect flash/HDD but can make a mess of anything with a magnetic swipe strip, and that’s one damn good reason to not try this I would say.

      Oh and it might also just be enough to temporarily confuse you while using a knife to give yourself a cut.

  2. Ferromagnetism is about the structure and bonds of the atoms and not just about the element itself.
    Fe in your organism is in ionic form, most of the time bonded to haemoglobin. This should not be ferromagnetic. Correct me if I am wrong.

  3. Look at a MRI machine if that won’t kill you that magnet will do nothing to your blood. It will however induce a small current in his other ring(of no consequence). A cool demonstration of this is to drop a neodynium magnet throught a copper pipe, it just sort of floats slowly down. It induces a current in the copper which in turn creates a magnetic field that slows the magnet. The only problem with this ring idea is that this can destroy his debit card, credit cards etc. Thes magnets are known to wipe a card in one fowl swoop.

    1. The one that doesn’t look like metal is the one he is discussing. The other is a very weak magnetic ‘Magician’s Ring’, and the plastic-looking one is a stronger one coated in epoxy.

    1. FWIW, I’ve not killed anything yet. All my drives are flash based (laptop, phone, usb) so I’m not concerned about those being wiped by a magnet. If I had a old school spinning drive that I would be careful about handeling while wearing the ring.

  4. Looking at the photo, he seems to be wearing the ring on his left hand, which probably serves to keep it away from his credit cards, assuming he is righthanded. I don’t think phones and usb drives are going to be effected I remember that being magsafe was one of the early selling points of usb sticks. I don’t know how strong this ring is but I imagine the biggest problem is occasionally having your hand jump onto random hunks of metal. I have read about folks getting tiny magnets imbedded in their fingertips for much the same purpose. I considered that, I’m doing this.

  5. This is why I don’t “get” body modifications. Why insert the magnet *into* your finger (under great risk and pain) when you can just as well wear it removably? What’s the point of subcutaneous RFID-chips when you could just clip one on your keyring?

    1. From a security standpoint, something embedded inside you is far more secure than a clip-on item that could easily be lost or stolen.

      From other standpoints, it’s “more hardcore.”

      FYI I’m not taking a side on the issue. It’s all just interesting to me.

      1. Hardly more secure, unless your definition of secure is “More likely to encourage a carjacker to hack off my hand to steal my rfid driven car”. Granted it would discourage carjacking by those not willing to mutilate you, but that would provide little comfort to the be-stumped.

    2. Depends on your motivation. If you are like me and enjoy the attention “Look at me! Look at me!” then your going to have to go hardcore implant. If you just want the convenience of RFID put it on your keychain.

      I had been considering a magnet implant for years. However, I wanted to start with the rings and now I realize that it would be annoying to not be able to remove the magnet.

    3. I have magnets implanted in both my middle and ring finger on my left hand. Before doing this I did glue a small magnet to the end of my finger using some second skin. Though I was able to feel the magnetic pull and push it was not as strong as the feeling I get from the ones now inside of my finger.

      Though I have not kept something glued to the end of my finger for as long as I have had my implants (going on 4 mo. now) I am not sure if I would get the same integration. I find myself being more passively aware of the fields around me. I may pick up a ring to put on my right hand to see if I can get the same awareness.

    4. I heartily agree. I’m not a big fan of body modifications that are not easily reversible. Why become a cyborg, for example, when I could just get an Iron Man suit that I could take off when not in use.

      Full list of the parts of my body I wasn’t born with: 4 titanium pins in my jaw and a cap on one tooth.

      I may want to look into a magnetic ring if it gives similar benefits to the magnetic implants, but is not an implant. On the other hand, I don’t really wear rings…

    5. Lepht Anonym’s excuse is that s/he forgets things when they aren’t physically implanted in her body. (This is why she is building the southpaw and implanting it into her thigh rather than buying a northpaw and wearing it around her ankle)

  6. Magnet won’t upset your phone, or USB sticks, none of them store data on magnetic media. Cards are another issue, depending. None my cards are non-chip cards other than my car park access card, which stays in the car, so wouldn’t bother me.

    However I have to say this looks like HaD has become homeopathicaday :)

    1. It feels like I’m replying to a trollish remark, but I am absolutely compelled to point out that CRTs cannot get dead or stuck pixels like an LCD.
      They are, however, subject to burn-in of the phosphor coating, damaging magnetization of the aperture grill or shadow mask, and a slew of other, possibly quieter, modes of failure.

  7. I figured a tattoo with 1:50000 scale, metric and imperial length+weight scale, and maybe a Fahrenheit:Celsius scale shoved onto it too would be more useful. There’s probably a much more aesthetic way to have presented it too.

    A stress gauge built into a wide ring/wristband would be super useful too, for accurately weighing things.

      1. Life must be fun when everything is some conspiracy.

        Says the man to the other man whose previous comment was deleted by mods. My initial post was a response to the first post which was a question about how this would affect a person’s blood. Simply, it won’t. I suggested a better question, “how is this even remotely a hack”, and made a remark that this “hack” was unworthy of a spot on hackaday.

        It is ironic you make a sarcastic quip about conspiracies, because in this case there was one.

      2. Right…: I don’t think your comment was removed. Occasionally, there is a hiccup with the comments and some don’t show up for a while, I have noticed this on multiple occasions.

  8. somebody years ago had a rare earth magnet implanted into their finger tip below the skin. he also reported a sixth sense exactly explained here. i would go with this method personally. he said he felt tingling when nearing an AC source.

  9. When testing high current circuit breakers, we used some very high currents, through a very short copper loop. The magnetic field was so strong, it would drive a computer monitor absolute bonkers from about 5 or 6 feet away. (see how close you have to be for a strong magnetic to affect one).

    While it never “hurt” me, I did get headaches when doing those tests, everybody did. Nothing major, just a small, but bothersome one.

    One guy swore he’d never have kids because of it, but every time we turned around, his wife was popping one out….

    Now, having said that, he would be interested in the experiment that “trained” people to revert back to being use their internal compass.

    Forgot where I saw it, but they had a GPS compass that would vibrate or something when pointed north. You could actually train yourself, as a sixth sense, to recognize the earth’s magnetic field. There’s a video of people going through some sort of a maze blindfolded.

    Very cool over all. I’ve been tempted to do it myself.

    I think this is why some people have much better sense of direction than others. But people can use the earths magnetic field, just like birds do. The only thing is, it’s like our sense of smell, we don’t use it like we used to, so it’s much less functional than it used to be.

    (you can train yourself to “activate” your sense of smell too, tracking like a dog does. Naturally, we’re not as sensitive as they are, but it’s better than you think it is.)

    1. GPS can only sense direction of the movement. In a building it’s even worse. Those navigation units that show correct direction statically, have a built-in digital compass (magnetometer). A 3-axis sensor is even easier to use than the good ole’ analog compass — no need to hold it horizontally.

      I’m beginning to like the idea of a wrist strap that vibrates when pointed towards magnetic north in 3-D. That is, a bit below horizon in moderate latitudes (magnetic inclination is also important). SparkFun’s HMC6343 seems to be suitable but is rather expensive.

  10. More like a 5.5 sense. It’s sensing something else via the sense of touch :) I do get the point though :) Imagine creating an entirely new sense that doesn’t rely on any of the senses the body already have.

  11. I’m wondering how that “feels”.
    I’m from Germany and immediately looked for some shops that would sell something similar here. All I found so far are some metal rings that have tiny “rare earth magnets” attached to them. They count from one to maximum three magnets and are only on specific spots.

    Is that ring mentioned here of the same type? Or is that ring COMPLETELY out of a magnet?

    Additionally: Does anyone know where I could get my hands on one of these rings without the need to pay a bucket full of money just to send it to germany?

    Pretty interesting topic here.
    Furthermore: He describes the experience of touching an isolated powercord with this ring. Can anyone explain better how that feels like?


    1. I don’t have rings like this one, only some neodymium magnets and an electric kettle. This particular magnet is about 2x5x7 mm (from CDROM optics). If carefully placed on top of the cord, it stays. Power on — and it falls. When trying to gently hold the magnet there, it slightly vibrates. That is more heard (a quiet rattle) than felt, because my fingertips are a bit dull now after a few soldering accidents. A large magnet, on a more sensitive place of the skin, could really resemble the dreaded muscle contractions due to electric current.

      1. Thanks for the interesting heads up.
        If these magnetic rings that are sold here in the German shops wouldn’t be so damn expensive for that little piece of magnet that they contain, I would definitely buy one of these. But I want a whole ring out of this amazing stuff. At home I’ve got some magnets of different shapes and sizes that I might use to try and tinker a bit around.


  12. Tried to post this comment yesterday, but it didn’t appear. :s

    I’m wondering if Hall effect sensors, and electromagnets could be used for some sort of low resolution I/O. Perhaps having a small electromagnet or motor in your mouse could alert you via vibrations in the ring. Or you could require some sort of swiping gesture when accessing your device as a sort of boobytrap. There are more practical ways to do this, but magnets are fun to play with.

  13. As a heart patient with (two!) pacemakers in my body, it’s great that others can be given a similar sense of magnetism and electricity as I feel, and in a much less invasive way.

    1. @Philip, you can purchase the magnetic wedding bands on my website: SUPERMAGNETMAN. We have several different varieties of rings (magnetized across the diameter and through the thickness) as well as different platings: Black Epoxy, Chrome, Gold and Silver.

      In reply to some of the earlier questions, wearing the magnetic rings around your computers will not be harmful to them. It would actually take a powerful magnet such as my 2″ Cube (C2001) to erase any information.

      If you should have any questions about anthing, don’t hesitate to contact me. :) Thanks.

  14. You can actually buy something very similar if you want one, just google

    “wizard PK ring”

    They do different styles and with gold coloured and black coloured ones. They have become a very polished product. They re very powerful and are themselves a magnet (not like some products with magnets attached). They are actually intended for magicians, hence the name.

  15. First, respectfully I’m not buying many of the claims made, sorry. Second what is the utility of this sense, if it gives false sensations, as the the electric tea pot power cord claim? I have no problem with the claims until someone starts to use them for profit. The day’s of floppies are over? Can any send me any 720K disks they may have laying around? I have an ancient Grid that does have some utility, and has only the floppy drive. I need to make as many back ups as possible. Every time I but it up to see if it still works, I think it finally has died. It’s slow that shit trough a snake to boot up. One would think it’s booting up Windows ;)

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