Magnet Implants, Your Cyborg Primer

What would you do to gain a sixth sense? Some of us would submit to a minor surgical procedure where a magnet is implanted under the skin. While this isn’t the first time magnet implants have been mentioned here on Hackaday, [The Thought Emporium] did a phenomenal job of gathering the scattered data from blogs, forum posts, and personal experimentation into a short video which can be seen after the break.

As [The Thought Emporium] explains in more eloquent detail, a magnet under the skin allows the implantee to gain a permanent sense of strong magnetic fields. Implantation in a fingertip is most common because nerve density is high and probing is possible. Ear implants are the next most useful because oscillating magnetic fields can be translated to sound.

For some, this is merely a parlor trick. Lifting paper clips and messing with a compass are great fun. Can magnet implants be more than whimsical baubles?

I would like to tell about my magnet which has been implanted for three years. As an automation engineer, I am tasked with trouble-shooting electrical panels. This is often a laborious task which involves probing with a multi-meter and staring back-and-forth at schematics.

When asked to diagnose a troublesome panel for a band-saw by some coworkers, I decided to use my magnet as a diagnostic tool first since it was a five minute walk to my meter. Lo and behold, after a wave of my hand, I noticed that the transformer wasn’t emitting a large field, like I would expect. I traced that back to a tripped circuit breaker, which three other engineers had missed, and flipped it. The machine restarted normal operation after thirty seconds instead of thirty minutes.

My magnet is literally part of me and a valuable tool of my trade.

[The Thought Emporium] has been mentioned here for their guide to making graphene. You can find more biohacking at Cyberpunk Yourself or see a wildly different application of body-mounted magnets.

72 thoughts on “Magnet Implants, Your Cyborg Primer

    1. There isn’t an easy answer about a magnet ring as a diagnostic tool. The short answer is yes. In fact, I bring a couple magnet rings with me when I go places where biohacking questions are likely to arise and usually demonstrate with microwave ovens. In fact, you can easily grab a strong refrigerator magnet and hold it near a cooking microwave oven and feel the field through the magnet. It has to be a couple inches from the transformer.

      When we get into the nitty-gritty of implants, there is a factor of SENSE vs TOOL. A sense is permanently a part of you while a tool is only useful while you’re actively using it. Let’s say you love soup but it has to be the correct temperature to taste right. In addition to your love of soup, you do not have the ability to sense temperature like every stock human. Instead of the innate sense, you must use a thermometer. You know that 130° F is the ideal temperature so you can take a reading of each spoonful and know if the bowl needs to be reheated or if you should blow on the soup. That would be cumbersome. A sense gives you automatic, constant, and intuitive feedback so your lips and hands tell you what you need to know without any conscious thought, you simply anticipate a tasty spoonful until the bowl cools even if you have to blow on it a couple times.

      1. There have been experiments with people wearing vibrating belts for sensing geographic north, and one of the odd consequences of always being aware of your absolute bearing is that the people became claustrophobic inside their own homes for the awareness of how tiny a space they actually reside in.

        1. I read about those belts and the ankle cuff. I hadn’t heard about the claustrophobia, that’s interesting and I can see how that could happen.
          What I found most interesting, was that they also reported that they felt like they couldn’t get lost. No matter how many twists and turns they took on a trip, their mental map was too good.
          There is a new device by Cyborg’s Nest called NorthSense, which attached to chest piercings and tells you when you are facing magnetic north. I haven’t heard any of those people report claustrophobia so maybe a single node is better for some people.

        1. You know, I’ve actually looked for a medic-alert bracelet like that. I saw one but it sold out before I bought it, I snoozed, I losed. People with bone-mounted hearing aids probably have something along those lines.

      1. Some of the stronger ones have problems with medical alloys designed to be as non-magnetic as possible. I think you underestimate the forces involved, Medical stainless steel that is normally considered non-magnetic have problems with some not as powerful machines – but not the ripping out of the implant site traveling at a high speed through anything that is in the way towards the big magnet we are talking about when bringing magnets into MRI examinations.

    1. The strength of implanted magnets is too weak to erase magnetic media including cassette tapes, floppy disks, magnetic card stripes, and hard disk drives. SD cards use flash memory which isn’t affected by magnets anyway. Lots of people with magnet implants work in IT, which seems to attract that kind of people and none of them have reported anything like that.

  1. I have a magnetic implant for a bone anchored hearing aid. Other than sticking ferrous metals to the back of my head, I haven’t noticed anything extra-sensory going on. Anything I should try?

    1. Use a hair trimmer next to your ear!
      When I was getting my last haircut, the barber used a cordless trimmer right next to my ear, where I have magnets in the lobes, and I got a distinct sensation from the trimmer. I could be wrong about the cordless aspect.
      I have a question for you, if you don’t mind. I have had high-frequency hearing loss my whole life and I will likely need a hearing aid soon, would you recommend the bone-anchored type?

      1. I’ve been completely deaf in my right ear since birth. No two people’s hearing loss is the same or will have the same results, but in my experience: No, it’s not worth it. It sounds bad, barely works, uncomfortable, expensive, poorly crafted. Genuinely have nothing positive to say about Cochlear/Oticon’s offerings. But, some say it works great for them, but take your time test driving before buying!

        1. Thank you for the appraisal. I’m sad that it doesn’t work as well as you’d like but I’m happy to know that other people have good results. Now I don’t have to rely solely on the marketing department.

          1. I too have a BAHA (bone anchored hearing aid) and I too concur that they are crap. The best way I can describe how it sounds is: call someone on a cordless phone, have the party you’r calling put the phone down on a table and step away from the phone 6ft away and continue talking in a normal voice. That’s what it sounds like, hollow, tinny, cheap and faint. Plus, like all hearing aids, it’ll be amazingly good at picking up sounds that are uncomfortable that you don’t want to hear and fail you everywhere you wish it worked. I wore it for a few months, then decided that it was a POS and gave it back to the audiologist. Losing $5k in the process. So yeah, try before ya buy!

  2. You can stick small magnet to the tip of your pinky w/ adhesive bandage. Its works almast same except you dont need to implant anything. Btw idea of tech implants is generally stupid because tech constantly evolves and you will be forced to have surgery too often just because Apple will make new Eyephone (yeah Futurama) and your old will out of fashion or because your one will break or has planned EOL (cruel world) etc. Its same as CPU sockets. You can implant this socket into your neck but history show that sockets are upgrades too, not so fast as CPU but anyway. Same w/ peripheral sockets (ISA, PSI, FireWire, USB 1, USB 2 USB 3 …) so implant anything into your body is dumb. Exoskeletons are much better.

    1. Grinders wrestle with this EXACT point all the time. Most of us agree with you that implanting something that will be outdated next quarter is a bad idea. Something like a magnet interacts with the real world so it won’t be outdated in our lifetimes. Then there’s the gray area of peripherals, like implanting a Bluetooth headset. Bluetooth will likely be around for the next decade but probably not until I die.
      Exoskeletons are cool. Who would even argue against exoskeletons?!

      1. >”so it won’t be outdated in our lifetimes”

        Until it becomes outmoded by a similiar sensor that gives you finer resolution and more information about the field gradient and frequency, with higher sensitivity without being magnetic itself, because let’s face it – a neodymium magnet under your skin is an inconvenience.

        1. Honestly, I hope so.
          People with finger magnets today are showing that there’s a desire for new and exciting senses and hopefully bigge companies will pick up on that and start innovating with implants that give higher resolution and more information. It’s the curse of early-adopters.

    1. N52 magnets do lose some of their strength when heated to autoclave temperatures but permanent lost doesn’t occur until much hotter. They can be safely remagnetized but chemical sterilization is just simpler. The magnets rated for high temperature, samarium-cobalt, are less than N35.

    1. Haha, so, I have to say, you’ve done a rare thing. Humor in biohacking is really rare, probably because there aren’t a lot of stereotypes to laugh about and partially because of a lot of biohackers are serious folks.
      I’ve tried writing biohacking jokes and failed but I legitimately laughed out loud. Thankfully, no one heard except my cats.
      On a serious note, most MRIs won’t be a problem but some of the strongest units, usually found in universities and research facilities, can be problematic. See, we can’t help but be serious.
      Thanks again for the laugh.

    1. This was a panel the size of a semi windshield with a few hundred active components.
      Mechanical engineers and electrical engineers are like cats and dogs so when they saw me, an electrical engineer, walk by, they decided I was the guy who could fix it the fastest. We were actually all friends so when they called me, it was really more like they were using the mechanical engineer’s battle cry, “It doesn’t work, it must be electrical’s fault!”
      In truth, the CB was not even the most likely culprit in this particular panel, our first assumption was a problem with the PLC.
      Electrical engineers are lucky enough to be trapped between mechanical and software so our battle cry is, “It doesn’t move, it must be mechanical’s fault!” or “It doesn’t move properly, it must be in software!”
      As a side note, I no longer work there and one of the reasons is that they made me work a 23-hour shift.

        1. My dad had his own business so I know about those long hours only from an observer’s standpoint.
          The part that bothered me about the 23-hour shift was that it was orders from the VP who gave that declaration then went home to his bed while I stayed to make him money.

    1. Unless they’re damaged, a neodymium magnet should not lose more than 1% of its strength over ten years. I had one in my index finger which seemed to stop working but there was a rupture in the coating. Some keep their strength better than others, of course. It’s also possible that the implant has dulled some the sensation if the body builds callouses or fouling which would lead to added mass on the magnet. After three years, my finger magnet is still strong.

      1. I have noticed that under that nickel coating (bio haz) rare earth magnets corrode fast just in air and turn into tiny fragments. What is inside is much worse from medical standpoint . Was this removed and reported as failure for medical safety accounting?

        1. The neodymium inside is a heavy metal so when it ruptured, my body surrounded it in scar tissue. Everything under the biosafe coating is undesirable which is why so much focus is put on durable layers. My remaining magnet has a layer of silicone and a layer of gold. The rejected magnet had a ceramic (TiN) coating over the nickel layer.

  3. Can you feel the magnetic field of the earth with those magnet in your finger or a train going by in a hundred meter distance or any other sensation which would really enhance your senses? I guess not. Forgive me, but being able to sense a working transformer in about 5cm distance and feeling that a device-enclosure is made of ferrous metal is just not really useful in my eyes. 3 other engineers couldnt find the problem? That just means they are worthless at their job.
    Again: im sorry, its just my opinion.

    1. I can’t feel the magnetic field of the earth or trains from a hundred meters away. If the magnets were that strong, there might be too much interference. I do wish it was a bit more powerful but not too much.
      Not everyone needs a magnet and even some people who get them don’t use it daily. For many, it is less about being practical or functional and more about gaining a sense that a stock human doesn’t have. Some grinders don’t care about magnets at all, they are only interested in RFID tags.

      1. I would think the small disk is far from ideal for getting a mechanical output. Long and skinny maybe. Two disks connected by a rod (like lollipops) with poles in opposite directions will get some torque. Motion or forces are probably at least an order of magnitude better, depending on rod length, even more. A cruciform in the right area might be enough to tell local field orientation, with training.

        1. Interesting. There have been rod-like biomagnets but they had many times the mass of the discs and were primarily for lifting objects rather than sensory augmentation. As far as I’m aware, no one has tried a long magnet for sensing. If it is too long without a large enough diameter, it would be prone to stress fracturing.
          The actual sensation around an AC field isn’t about torque since the field oscillates so quickly. The first time I noticed the sensation, it felt like someone was blowing air softly on my finger. Now, if you wanted to sense the polarity of a permanent magnet or a DC electromagnet, the longer magnet would probably be the way to go.

    1. It definitely can!
      Reed switches and Hall-effect sensors are great tools for grinders with magnets. I can even convince my phone that I am spinning by tricking the internal compass with my finger magnet. If I hold my hand a couple inches away it has no effect.

  4. I thought about getting an implant and decided to glue a bit of hard drive magnet to my saluting finger. It stepped right in for duty when I misplaced my line test beeper or killed the batteries when I was still an electricians apprentice. 60 Hz actually feels pretty cool when there’s no electrical shock component.

  5. Cobalt and just about everything else except iron is toxic to some degree. Some are deadly! The body is good at getting rid of alien objects that are not to deep. Although I know a machinist who has a finger with a chunk of iron lodged in that he can stick a magnet to. He don’t know when it happened.
    Sometimes a tool can very simple. Sometimes I can’t convince a coworker that they should be able to figure it out.

    Take Betty the crow, toolmaker in a flash. Done! Next, reward!

    Here is caveman tech way to diagnose the dead xfmr. A stick, or a screwdriver. Figure it out. Bugs and woodpeckers know. Hum….
    Using steel wool a lot it would be annoying to have harry finger just like so many magnetized screwdrivers. A sliver of metal that sticks then gashes the skin, gak! A habit of mine when picking up a screwdriver is to whack it against a hard edge to knock any magnetic detritus off before sticking it into the head of a screw yet alone some naked trim-pot on a board. A Weller soldering gun will demagnetize most anything you can poke into and out of the loop while it is on. Still tools can get magnetized by just using then.

  6. Thanks for this I am booked to have mine implanted in a few weeks by Samppa von cyborg. He has suggested the side of the hand is better than the finger. I have not been told why yet, but he said we can discuss it on the day. I would be interested in your thought on this location?

    1. I have an RFID tag in the knife-edge (ulnar side) of my hand and the skin there is thick but not sensitive. Fingertips have usually been the preferred place because of the high density of somatosensory nerve endings. Although, my podcast co-host has his magnet in the ulnar side of his wrist. He has much more trouble reaching for a field and probing than my finger magnet.
      I would ask more about his reasoning because Samppa is a total pro and I suspect he knows something that I don’t.

      1. I’m getting mine done by Samppa in a couple of days. I’ve asked them about their reasoning. They say it’s because the finger magnets get damaged easier and i tend to agree, you’re one badly placed hammer blow away from cutting the magnet (fragments) out again.

        As for sensitivity, Aneta says it’s the same as finger implants (which i can’t quite believe, as there are way more nerve endings in fingers than the edge side of the hand)

    1. Biohacking is a fledgling movement. There are significant risks and loss of magnetism is one of those risks. I’ve had a magnet reject and it was a sad day when it was removed. To me, the risks are worth the potential rewards.
      Sadly, our bodies don’t like this which aren’t our cells and it is a harsh environment to start with. Hip and shoulder replacements may not last a lifetime, depending on your life expectancy. My 35yo coworker had a shoulder replacement and as a mother they said her replacement wouldn’t last three decades. Biohackers are making better magnet coatings and investigating better tech all the time.

  7. In addition to the neodymium, boron may also leach, with associated health effects. The iron is likely to cause scarring. The boron MSDS is interesting to read. How does one know one is not implanting a samarium-cobalt magnet?

    1. Everything under the biosafe coating(s) of a magnet is bad news, usually heavy metals. If the coating is compromised the magnet must be removed.
      A samarium-cobalt magnet isn’t strong enough to be worthwhile as an implant. They have a maximum rating of about N35 so they’re more costly and less functional than an N52 magnet. You could tell the difference just by sticking it to a piece of steel and pulling it away.

    1. That is a great place to start!
      People have attached a magnet with glue to their nail and painted over it. Implantable magnets require an expensive biosafe coating but if it is attached to your nail you can use any inexpensive magnet. You can experiment with different sizes and shapes every time you change color.

    1. I have never had trouble with metal detectors or full-body scanners. The sensitivity on a metal scanner would have to be set to very sensitive in order to pick up one of the magnets. Body scanners can’t see through the skin so they wouldn’t even be able to detect a magnet.

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