Illustration for article titled Tales of Human Upgrades: Magnetic Fingertips

So, why would you ever want to make your fingertip magnetic? Well, how about being able to feel your laptop spinning up? Or sensing if a cable had a current going through it? Think of it as a sixth sense.


Some body modders, such as Jesse Jarrell and Steve Haworth, have experimented with the idea, putting rare earth magnets in their fingertips. Their initial idea was to use the magnets to help them carry stuff, but it turns out that using a magnet in your hand to carry things around kills the skin between the magnet and the object. Not good!

Instead, it acts as an extra sense that lets you know when electricity is around.

According to Huffman, the magnet works by moving very slightly, or with a noticeable oscillation, in response to EM fields. This stimulates the somatosensory receptors in the fingertip, the same nerves that are responsible for perceiving pressure, temperature and pain. Huffman and other recipients found they could locate electric stovetops and motors, and pick out live electrical cables. Appliance cords in the United States give off a 60-Hz field, a sensation with which Huffman has become intimately familiar. "It is a light, rapid buzz," he says.


It's pretty awesome, really. It's a way to make your body aware of an invisible energy that you were completely unaware of before. And if that's not what body hacking is all about, then what is? [Wired]

This week, Gizmodo is exploring the enhanced human future in a segment we call This Cyborg Life. It's about what happens when we treat our body less as a sacred object and more as what it is: Nature's ultimate machine.

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