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Am I a cyborg now? (popcount.org)
86 points by majke on July 29, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 46 comments



Hacking the senses is a side interest of mine. Some thoughts and questions:

- Do people who get these magnetic implants actually develop different "qualia" along with their new perceptions, or do they just add different interpretations to existing qualia?

- With respect to this specific device, does the buzzing change intensity proportional to the field, or is it an "on/off" thing?

- My understanding of nerves like touch receptors is that they activate in response to a stimulus, then send an electrical response to the brain. It sucks that you have to directly implant these little magnets in your fingers to get the actual stimulation. Is there anyway to wear the magnets on or outside your skin (say, embedded in a glove) and still get the nerve stimulation? I'm thinking of something like magnetic induction or some other resonance effect between some target and the nerves.


You do get a different "qualia". The "northpaw" has been around for a few years, it's a set of pager-buzzers that always buzz on the north side of your leg. http://sensebridge.net/projects/northpaw/ Users say they stop feeling the vibrations pretty quickly and they just "know" which way is north. http://www.quinnnorton.com/said/?tag=northpaw


But does that really equate to different "qualia" or is it more like the cognitive "shorthand" involved in the experience of driving a vehicle? Is there a difference?

Meh, bloody semantics will get you every time.


No I think it's real. Body image is pretty plastic.


I wonder what happens when one stops wearing the Northpaw. Do they lose the 'sense' of North or does it persist (even for a little)?


While I don't have magnetic implants, I have been wearing a magnetic ring the last few months. Much less intense, but something that is easily reversible. Finding fields has been interesting and when I do run across them I do stop in my tracks and move around finding the intensity/size of the field. Guess I could say it is like if you are blind and feeling a ball in the air. After just a few swipes through it and your mind can picture where the field is strong enough to "touch" and typically where the center is. Now with a ring I feel _way_ less than implants or other solutions and no doubt miss many fields, but it is still cool, fun, and simple (no batteries, surgery, etc).

It also has perks such as picking up small screws I drop, turning on/off my ipad/macbook/blackberry with just a swipe of my hand and dangling my keys if I need to hold something else in my hand.


What ring do you wear/which have you tried?


I hope it's not Alex Chiu's immortality rings.. ;)


> Do people who get these magnetic implants actually develop different "qualia" along with their new perceptions, or do they just add different interpretations to existing qualia?

I'm not sure what the right answer is with regards to magnetic implants, but some people who have used the haptic compass mentioned in another comment have reported developing a seemingly innate "sixth sense" of direction. Presumably that might apply to a wide range of augmented sensory apparatus.


> Hacking the senses is a side interest of mine.

This TED talk is fascinating [0]. Our brain is really a fantastic adaptative machine.

http://www.ted.com/talks/neil_harbisson_i_listen_to_color.ht...


This is called a "vibrotactile display". They've been around for quite some time (1970s). In fact, you can make "electrostatic vibrotactile displays" using small electrodes to deform the skin and get much higher density (ie. to make fake, programmable textures) -- these are starting to find their way into cellphone screens. You'll find lots of examples... usually attached to a person's forehead, tongue, or back. Here's some more info:

http://www.hizook.com/blog/2010/08/11/electrotactile-arrays-...


I've wondered for quite a while if this was possible.

Thank you for sharing.


> I don't know if it's legal to put a capacitor behind LM1117 regulator.

Oh gosh yes. By default you want at least a 0.1uF ceramic close to the output of a regulator, and the additional 100uF electrolytic is good. Then since it's a one-off and not worth worrying about, I'd put another 0.1uF close to the input of the regulator, and another 100uF across the battery. And if you're still having problems at that point, possibly a small resistor in series with the buzzer to limit its inrush current. You could also replace the mechanical buzzer with a piezo buzzer (or piezo speaker and generate tones with the avr). (PS if you're stocking up, you might as well opt for 1uF ceramics and "low ESR" electrolytics for these purposes)


Thanks for the comment! The one capacitor I put seems to be enough for my needs for now :) But it's great to hear what's the correct thing.

> I'd put another 0.1uF close to the input of the regulator, and another 100uF across the battery.

Interesting. I (naively) thought that a capacitor near a LiPo battery is illegal as you're not allowed to charge the battery directly. I thought when the battery power drops a capacitor will be doing exactly that. Can you explain why that's untrue?

Update: in other words: What's the difference between putting a capacitor near the battery and "charging"?


Well I'll just first disclaim that I don't have any design experience with Li-Po batteries, although reading about them I don't see any odd requirements. The guideline to not "charge them directly" is in contrast to say lead-acid batteries, which you can simply hook up to an appropriate voltage supply and let them sit indefinitely ("trickle charging").

To the extent that you need to worry about it, the voltage on the two will be the same. The battery power only drops as you're drawing current. The point of the capacitor is to smooth out changes to the load by supplying current "first". Your capacitor will never get "more" charged than the battery somehow. The main difference versus "charging" is that you have no external energy source.

From a slightly more advanced perspective, the reason for the capacitor is to smooth out the (possibly bidirectional!) transient loads on the battery. It's quite possible that your "inductive buzzer" (depending on how it's driven) is actually backfeeding a little current through the arduino and onto the supply rails. Your battery will never be overcharged this way because any such energy came from the battery itself, but smoothing out the spikes with a capacitor eases the stress on the battery. In fact, I'd be surprised if the arduino board didn't have a decent-sized capacitor immediately on its supply lines, and this is part of the reason.


This is limited electronics knowledge, plus conjecture. Buyer beware: - Direct (unmanaged) LiPo charging is to be avoided because the cells react so violently to overcharging. - Compared to a LiPo cell even a 100 uF capacitor contains essentially zero energy.

The capacitor won't overcharge the LiPo, because it would almost immediately expend the charge it stored


We're all cyborgs already: http://abstrusegoose.com/171 :)

Cool project and a good read, thanks.


Did you see the NorthPaw? It's a band of 8 buzzers that goes around an ankle, and buzzed Magnetic North as you walk around.


http://www.quinnnorton.com/said/?tag=northpaw

Quinn Norton had a good series on it. There's also a longer talk by her about body hacking in general online.

http://youtu.be/voA7Uz7uABE

It's an interesting frontier, but I don't have any good resource that has continual updates on it. Any recommendations? The only other place I've really seen stuff about it is BME Zine, but it's focused on BME in general, so there's a lot more noise than signal.


I don't get why it has to be so bulky! Surly there's a better way of implementing this that's actually closer to the true meaning of "anklet" - I'd be genuinely interested in wearing something like this as I have a great memory for maps but a completely abysmal sense of direction.


I've seen something like that on BBC Horizon. The idea was to give this to a blind person to help with navigation.

BTW, I'd like to know if a single buzzer is enough for this purpose - vibrate stronger as the angle north gets smaller. I'm quite sure human would be able to quickly learn this. Or maybe a combination of two buzzers.

BTW', I don't need to mention that I had similar idea to Indoor Atlas http://www.indooratlas.com/technology.html (but of course, ideas don't matter only execution)


There is one technological invention, completely 'unnatural' and born of human artifice, which each and everybody on Hacker News has internalised so deeply that we take it for granted almost as natural thing.

It extends our capacity for information gathering and exchange, and has extended human memory monumentally. I'm talking about writing.

Yeah, I admit it - I've drunk the Marshall McLuhan Kool-Aid. But think about it. You have ancestors for whom writing was an alien and unfamiliar information technology. And yet you can look at a page and suddenly be drawn into the sensations, ideas and experiences of men and women who died generations and continents away. All thanks to a technology that we have so thoroughly integrated with our experience of being alive and human that it's become second nature.

You're a cyborg already.

EDIT: Wow, I'm a little surprised I'm the first person to mention McLuhan? For those that don't know, he's the bloke that coined the term 'cybernetics'.


Get thee to kickstarter! I would so buy one of these in final form.


This is very cool and interesting and HN worthy. I second all the notes here about vibrotactile displays. Please also read up about how people are developing devices that substitute somato sensation (touch) for vision for blind people http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensory_substitution


> I'm able to detect more sophisticated changes in the field

The magnet implant is probably way more sensitive vs this binary device, since it's pressing your sensory receptors in your fingers; they can also sense temperature and position changes.


Okay, this might have been an overstatement. I assumed that you can't feel static magnetic field, only changing one. Can anyone with a magnet implant comment?


Presumably, a magnet implant would allow you to feel a static magnetic field by moving your hand around, since that would, from your finger's point of view, turn it into a changing magnetic field.


You can feel both. For me static fields are a very strange feeling which is not very comfortable. Having only one small magnet (the second generation ones from Steve Haworth) I have to concentrate to feel a low static magnetic field.

Changing ones are more obvious and way more comfy. I think this is because a static one pulls or pushes the magnet all the time while changing ones let the magnet "vibrate" (from pulling and pushing all the time).


Does the magnet even have to be implanted? I'd think that you could just stick it to your finger and get the same results without resorting to surgery. Perhaps just use one of those little rubber fingertips that administrative assistants use while filing?


This is my response to a previous comment in here, copy and pasted to you:

As someone with the actual implant, I'd say no.

Think of it this way, people have been wearing magnetic body jewelry as an alternative to piercings for decades. Sensing magnetic fields has never been associated with magnetic jewelry.

The same way that holding a buckyball between two fingers close to a fan doesn't really create an unusual or striking response, comparatively.

There's something unique about the implant that can't be replicated in other ways. I mean, I haven't tried this external device, but the above is my response to questions about magnetic rings, nail polish, earrings, etc.


What if it were glued on? The idea is cool, but there's no way I would want something surgically implanted like that. It's just better to be able to remove it when needed.


I say give it a try. It will be an experience, even if it's not the same experience.

I'd say a large part of the difference is mental. With an implant, your body internalizes the sensations, they're part of your body, your "one"-ness. With external sources, you may still feel the sensations, but they're not yours. Your body doesn't feel the fields, it feels an object that feels the fields.

It's hard to explain, and that's the best I got.


Are you sure about that? Haven't you ever felt your car as an extension of yourself while driving or anything like that?


I did that once. Taped a strong magnet to my finger. I could feel strong magnetic fields, but not for long as I had to keep it really tight. A neat experience though, no surgery required


It's not binary - look at the argument to buzzer() in the code. It's clearly programmed to vibrate the buzzer more when a stronger magnetic field is detected.


I agree. How do you think that could be circumvented w/o an implant? Electrodes might work but who wants to do that….


This is very cool, but I was surprised to see what seems like an obvious bug in your code. In the buzzer() function, it looks like you were trying to use "buzz_prev" to optimize away extra writes of 0 when no magnetic field is detected. However, buzz_prev will never get reset because line 57, which sets it to zero, will only be executed if (!buzz_prev), that is, if it's already zero.


Nice catch Sir! You're right, line 57 should be below 55. Fix:

https://github.com/majek/dump/commit/7e9edeba2ead00a24341ec5...


Wouldn't it be easier to superglue a magnet to your pinky?


Exactly! I always wondered why nobody tried this.

Although I must admit - I grew up at a time when magnets were anathema to using computers, and I remain resistant to having magnets anywhere near my work area.


Completely different sensations.


Cant we do this with mobile application? Mobile vibrating when there is increased magnetic field or something like that. Someone can check with sample app?


Everyone wearing corrective glasses can be considered a cyborg.


Could you do this with a high strength magnetic ring?


As someone with the actual implant, I'd say no.

Think of it this way, people have been wearing magnetic body jewelry as an alternative to piercings for decades. Sensing magnetic fields has never been associated with magnetic jewelry.

The same way that holding a buckyball between two fingers close to a fan doesn't really create an unusual or striking response.

There's something unique about the implant that can't be replicated in other ways. I mean, I haven't tried this external device, but the above is my response to questions about magnetic rings, nail polish, earrings, etc.


If a three axis magnetometer was used in conjunction with electrical nerve stimulation on multiple sites, you could have the full range of compass heading, local magnetic field density and ac field sensing. Which would be cool.

This has probably already been covered by the NASA Human Systems Integration Division, so it might be worth having a dig through some of their stuff - http://hsi.arc.nasa.gov/index.php

I think it was some of them who are working on the subvocalisation stuff - http://www.nasa.gov/centers/ames/news/releases/2004/subvocal... - which is basically cyborg telepathy, near as dammit.




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