Hacking Magnets Into Your Skin

[Dave] loved his iPod nano so much that he implanted 4 magnets in his arm to hold it.

Ok, go ahead and shout “fanboy” at your screen and say something snide about apples products or lament the poor working conditions at foxconn. Got it out of your system? Cool.

Actually, if we had to guess, [Dave] really isn’t doing this all for his love of the device or the company. It is much more likely that he is just really into body modding and this was a convenient theme for a mod. We find the idea pretty interesting. We’ve seen implants before, but they are usually of the RFID type. Typically those are used for some kind of security or computer control.

Implanting a magnet, however, is interesting because it could almost give you a “sixth sense” You could detect what was magnetic, and how magnetic it was. If we were going to do something like this, we would probably go fully sub-dermal though to help avoid infection.

What other kind of implants could you realistically do with today’s technology to give yourself other senses?

79 thoughts on “Hacking Magnets Into Your Skin

    1. As Caleb mentioned, they’re not fully subdermal. A quick look at the video shows they protrude through the skin. So no risk of pressure sores; only infection, detachment, or developing a nickel allergy from the magnets’ coating! I doubt these will be in there for long, even if he’s extra-careful around the refrigerator door…

      1. Very few things are accepted by the body without being encapsulated (think cyst) or rejected. Stainless steel actually contains nickel and chromium but it can sometimes be implanted without huge issues. Titanium is used because of osseointegration – the bone grows around it and it is considered generally inert. Plus, it can be 3d printed with metal sintering techniques.

        Some 3d printed calcium based implants are being used to “replace” sections of missing bone and are dissolved away as the bone heals. In theory, it would be possible to cover the magnet with some kind of custom engineered, bioactive marker that would trick the body into thinking this was ok but the fact that there is still an open wound here means these will probably be rejected in short order as there is a constant opportunity for infection – these aren’t antlers.

        And yeah – the nickel coating on the magnets (if that’s what they are) is problematic as well.

    2. I was thinking this too, but from the looks of the video the magnets aren’t actually covered with skin, they’re just mounted into his skin so the iPod can sit directly on top of them.

      1. Actually I have heard autodoctor in a radio commercial for an auto service business Of course my point was why call a doctor that works on himself anything but a doctor?

    1. What other kind of implants could you realistically do with today’s technology to give yourself other senses?

      If you could combine some method of either wireless power or some low current method of operation and a method to extract power from the body, you could implant bluetooth (or another wireless method) sensors / nerve stimulation devices that could, for example, replace otherwise disconnected nerves. But you still have the fact that nerve signals are bioelectric and if we can do that we might as well just repair or replace the damaged nerve anyway.

      We could implant rudimentary sensors over the retina to allow for sight in the infrared or UV or other spectras. But it seems like integrating that might be more trouble than its worth.

      It might be possible to implant a beta/gamma radiation detector under the skin such that it vibrates or heats up or such when beta/gamma radiation was detected.

      The biggest hurdles (I think) remain rejection, power supply and sensory integration with most any of these proposals.

      1. I seem to remember reading something about an e-ink tatoo that had a controller mounted subdermally. The unit was powered by a small glucose powered “battery”. While I cannot find a link to it, I have found several links for the moodINQ e-ink tatoo system, and this link for the <a href="http://www.sony.net/SonyInfo/News/Press/200708/07-074E/&quot; Sony “Bio Battery”.
        Other means of power work by charging internal batteries via inductive coupling.

        Sensory intergration could involve heating, vibration, or “prickeling” a section of skin. It is actually amazing how the human brain adapts tools into extensions of the body. After some training period, a person would not even need conscious attention.

        That takes care of power and sensory integration. If we can ever manage to overcome (or easily manage) rejection issues, I could see a large scale addvancement in body augmentation.
        Maybe we should study the mechanics of body piercings…

      2. I believe the power suppl problem has been solve in pacemaker and defibrillator implants. wireless recharging of the batteries. The batteries unfortunately seem to out live the patient.

  1. I doint call fanboyism, I call himm attention-seeking. With those rings in his ear, those extremly colorful attention seeking tattoos and now this magnet-modification and the Video of it… this boy is clearly seeking for the attention of others. There must be something he wants to tell us. I guess he was very odd and inconspicuous at the age of 14.

    1. I simply see it as fashion and yes fashion is about attention seeking, but I’m not in the group whose attention those who wear extreme body decoration are seeking so this is the small shit to me. That group is less powerless to affect my life adversely behind the scenes than those who wear the everyday fashion of the business/corporate and government elite. The latter group expects and sometimes demands the fashion they wear garners them respect.

    2. Most of those who are serious about body mods usually have them in places where no one would know they’re there. I myself have a rather significant amount of tattoos and more than a few piercings, yet, unless I take off my shirt everywhere I go, no one knows they’re there for the most part… The visible tattoos I have are covered daily for my job, I don’t make it a point to show them off. For people like myself, these things are personal, every tattoo I have has a meaning behind it, and the piercings are mostly to accentuate that… Labeling everyone who has tattoos and piercings as attention seekers is much like labeling everyone who uses Apple devices, Apple fanboys…

      1. Thats why I said “those extremly colorful attention seeking tattoos” because I wanted to say: The Amount of for me visible Tattoo ind combination with his other visible modifications are possible indicators for an attention seeking person. I sure did not build a fence around the group of tattooed people in general. But he want those attention. Why would he otherwise paint something on his neck where he himself couldn’t see it anyway; Because its for others to see.

    3. While I don’t know neither the person who was mentioned in this hack nor you, I just have to mention I feel that this is a very cheap and ignorant comment. You do not know the person involved so it seems like a textbook case of armchair psychology. Getting tattoos that are visible or hidden, colored or black, does not have to be a part of attention seeking behaviour. It might be for a variety of reasons, including the very simple “I think it looks good on me and I don’t care what other people think”. The same goes for body modifications. Some people are drawn to the aesthetics of modification, some to the feelings of being in control of your body, changing it in a way that you like, and again some just like the way piercings look.

      I feel it is the prevalence of people like you, who always seem to (and want to) associate body modification with something going wrong while the person is developing and that it is just a sign of abnormal behaviour, is the reason why acceptance for these things is growing so slowly.

  2. Give a douchebag a magnet and he’ll make an iPod holder…

    Sorry, seriously obnoxious. Reminds me of that attention-seeking guy in the NYU photo department who attached a webcam to the back of his head.

      1. There have literally been thousands of people that have implanted magnets in their fingertips.

        Here’s a forum of people discussing it and similar body mods: http://discuss.biohack.me/

        Here’s a guy with some medical experience that does it professionally: http://www.stevehaworth.com/wordpress/index.php/welcome-from-steve-haworth/magnetic-faq

        There are many more out there.

        A lot of people are crazy about having magnets stuck in their fingers. I’ve considered it myself and still might. What’s not awesome about sensing a whole spectrum we can’t normally detect without external tools?

  3. Not implanted, but what about just a magnetic wristband with a standard mounting system for swapping out different devices? I like the idea behind this, but agree that the magnets will eventually cause him problems.

  4. i once read about a journalist that had done an article on bodymods wish is wat this is , he had someone implant a small magnet on the tip of his finger he used it for his hobby to pick up small screws and nuts and stuff , it worked ok for a while but over time the body rejected the magnet and he had to have it removed again
    it might work if they encapsule the magnets in stainless steel (the same stuff they use in implants like hipreplacements)

  5. [sigh] different strokes for different folks,that’s all. As long as one isn’t harming another it’s the small shit not to sweat. The demise of the mini skirt is the only fashion trend that bummed me out. My first thought was looks very easy for someone to grab and start running like hell. I wonder if this is an Apple approved use of an Apple product, not that I care if it isn’t. Needless to say this is a hack I won’t be duplicating, I don’t even have an MP3 player, other than my cell phone.

    1. If you want mini-skirts go to Japan, nearing the end of winter when it is still less than 10 degrees C they still wear them. Some with out leggings I don’t know how the hell they do it but it is amazing.

  6. What about subdermal LEDs with wireless power?

    That would be badass, as you could see wireless access points by simply pointing where you think they are and watching how fast the LED flashes.

    1. Pfff, hard drives.

      I put an SSD in my laptop, and just to mess with people I’ll often find an excuse to leave some magnets on my laptop. People are always like “aaah what are you doing!” and I’m like “What? Its not like I have something magnetic in there.”

      1. You can put a magnet on a hard drive, as long as the casing is closed nothing bad happens (the magnet sticks to the drive of course). The shielding of a modern drive is quite good…

      2. I used to work for a radio station. While there I tried placing an old hard drive on a media eraser (big electromagnet for erasing reel to reel tapes). Nothing happened. All the data was still there.

  7. I wrote a paper a decade ago about implanted technology that could be used to assist the handicapped.

    One idea was a very tiny encapsulated magnet surgically placed in the tip of the tongue. The idea was
    to implant small detectors in the gums and other parts of the mouth that would detect the
    magnetism when the magnet in the tongue came very close to them. This scheme would allow
    someone with only the ability to move the tongue to easily control both external devices and
    internal implanted devices. A Morse code type of signalling could be used or many other types.

    Wires would be routed down the neck and into the chest cavity where the electronics would
    be housed in a small package along with some super caps that could be charged using a small
    coil placed just under the skin. An external device would induce current into the coil using
    pulsing electromagnetic force.

    External devices could easily be controlled by IR from tiny IR LEDs placed under the skin.
    IR passes through the skin fairly well, as does the higher frequency color red. Feedback signals
    from external devices can similarly communicate with the implanted system using IR signals to
    implanted IR detectors….this is a good way to alter the programming of the controllers in
    the implant.

    Another idea was to place small pressure sensors at multiple points in the body of a paralyzed
    person and connect them to a similarly implanted device. Also electrodes would be implanted
    within or close to muscles in various parts of the body to allow the muscles to be stimulated
    to contract. Under the scalp a set of small diameter Teflon coated tubes would fan out from
    a central point near the base of the skull to the top of the forehead. The tubes would have
    small multiple conductive surface areas of carbon doped conductive rubber. These conductive
    spots would allow the implanted controller to cause a tingling sensation at each spot directly
    related to a particular pressure sensor. This gives a rudimentary sense of touch and a feedback
    for the degree of contraction caused in a muscle when stimulated. The same system
    described above using a small magnet in the tongue could be used to control the muscle stimulators.

    In an externally mounted test system I built it was pretty amazing how quickly pressure
    feedback on the skull became second nature. The test rig used a stretchy cap covered with
    small electrodes moistened with conductive jelly. The system that was controlled were external
    robotic limbs with the pressure sensors mounted to them, their motion was controlled by the tongue
    using a device you placed in the mouth and controlled crudely with the tongue. The actual implanted
    magnet and sensors would have worked much better but it was good enough for a rough test.

    In a test of the skull cap for the hearing impaired I used a computer to send varying electical pulses to the multiple electrodes based on sound input from a microphone. Various sounds gave
    a very distinctive stimulation pattern. I did not play with this for very long but I feel it
    might be usefulness to assist the lip-reading hearing impaired. It was easy to distinguish
    between sound such as a phone ring, the doorbell, knock on the door and a human voice. A dog
    bark was also easily discerned. Sensitivity could be increased to a level where I could pick
    up a sound pattern that was weaker than I could actually hear normally. If programmable filtering
    was implemented a lot more might have been possible. It would also be possible to stimulate
    the scalp electrodes using a low resolution camera although I did not attempt this. Darker areas
    could cause a lower frequency stim pattern in those areas and brighter areas a higher frequency
    pattern. This would give a very crude rendition of the cameras output mapped over the scalp.
    Such a crude device might be of some use. It would be possible to mount a cmos image sensor beneath
    the skin and have a tiny pinhole size opening to allow light to reach the sensor. If the array
    of stimulation electrodes placed under the skin of the scalp was complex enough it might be
    possible to learn to read text using such a camera/feedback system…it would be interesting to
    test the idea.

    There are several other ideas we tried out but this post is too long already :-)

  8. First of all, haters gonna hate, people calling this dude a fanboy or a douchebag are judging someone who they don’t know. All we know is he put magnets in his arm and he likes tattoos and piercings, yeah, must be a douchebag right? I can’t say if this dude is a boss or a jerk because I don’t know him. So there’s that.

    Now that that’s out of my system, I think what he did was pretty ambitious, and an interesting concept, but maybe not the smartest thing to go through with. I couldn’t tell from the video, so I don’t know exactly what the material was that was actually inside him, but I’d definitely worry about the body rejecting it. Although it did look like he kind of knew what he was doing with those tools, so I gotta think he knows more than me on that subject. Secondly, I wonder how easy it’d be to remove for MRIs?

    Seems pretty cool, maybe not the smartest thing, though.

    1. It’s not because of the tattoos or piercings, it’s because of the ipod.

      All kidding aside, they should have shown more of the implants before sticking them in. It would have stopped a lot of the speculation about them. Plus, I like to see how things work, even if I’m not planning to stick magnets into my arm.

    2. I don’t know if I would call it hatters. I mean really think about it from a completely logical point of view.
      Body modifications like tattoos and piercings are in fact self mutilation for aesthetics reasons.
      It is doing injury to ones self and risking infection for the way it looks. Even people say that each modifications has some “meaning” it can is a nothing but a visual representation of something which is aesthetics. Over all I would classify this as dangerous and useless but hey that is must my opinion backed by my stated logic.

      1. I tend to think each to their own, so long as it doesn’t harm me for these kinda things. As long as they understand the risk. Tattoos are kinda cool, but some of those sub-dermal implants for purely aesthetic reasons give me the screaming heeby jeebies.

    3. It’s a bit like ricing a car: it’s not to everybody’s taste, it draws a lot of attention, and if it’s done badly, some people will ridicule it.

      I’ve seen wrist piercings before, but having them just to attach an iPod seems ridiculous, and especially with the Super Mario flower on the back of his hand.

      Still: whatever.

  9. ” or lament the poor working conditions at foxconn. Got it out of your system? Cool.”

    That’s kinda… disgusting, how you just shrug that off. Nobody else has said it so far, but I really do find it troubling in our culture how we pay lip-service to these things we all know about but continue just the same. “oh yeah we all know child labour or exploited adult labour is used to produce our cocoa but quit whining and bitching about it ur killing my buzz”

  10. WOW i cannot get the image of the guy who had silicone “breast” implanted in his tattoo and they became infected. Also i worry that his forearm never gets to close to any significant amount of steel or another magnet.

  11. I shout ‘he will end up poisoning himself and possibly getting a tumor from leaking materials.’, but I guess I can shout that since that wasn’t mentioned.
    I also think to myself “this fits in the selfmutulation/selfhate theme so I guess it’s all alright”

  12. I like my version which is to implant 1mm range micro NIB magnets encased in titanium under the skin of the scalp or embedded in the outer skull to hold EEG electrodes in place.

    No-one seems to be interested in my research which is a shame, as this would be ideal for also holding in place items such as optical tomography pickups.

    1. Why use magnets anyway? You can still have completely non-toxic implants by using titanium coated iron plates. You can even have them screwed to a bone. This also keeps the object from wandering around inside your body.

  13. I got an MRI and a CAT scan with my two labret piercings in. I doesn’t affect anything. It’s only if you have metal near a major organ or something along those lines.

    This has given me the idea to do the same thing on my shoulder. Attach it and use it as an iPod for music. This will shorten the earphone cord that is always getting caught on things when I’m on a job site and working out or jogging. I just have to find out where to get these magnets. I suppose you could just glue a thin magnet to the back of the iPod and leave the piercings alone. Also, I want to test if it’ll work through clothing. Does anyone know anything about magnets? Can you get rare earth magnets in thin sheets?

  14. The implants are surgical steel or titanium and are quite common these days, where the implant comes out of the skin is a threaded rod or threaded reciever with a ball, spike, or flat plastic anchor screwed on, he just replaced these with magnetic ends. Why do HAD commenters ignore the interesting aspects of a story and focus on tearing down the person featured in it. This is a dam cool idea. Its someone who has this stuff already looking at it and going “Hmmm that might be cool.”

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