Implants for magnetic sensitivity

This is a couple of years old, but cool:

What if, seconds before your laptop began stalling, you could feel the hard drive spin up under the load? Or you could tell if an electrical cord was live before you touched it? For the few people who have rare earth magnets implanted in their fingers, these are among the reported effects — a finger that feels electromagnetic fields along with the normal sense of touch.

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.

The author had a magnetic implant put in his own finger:

I would circle my finger with a strong magnet and feel the one in my finger spin. In time, bits of my laptop became familiar as tingles and buzzes. Every so often I would pass near something and get an unexpected vibration. Live phone pairs on the sides of houses sometimes startled me.

New sensory modes using low cost, low tech methods—why not? Show me a few hundred people who like their magnetic implants and I’d probably do it too.

3 thoughts on “Implants for magnetic sensitivity

  1. Just as long as you’ll never need an MRI.. 🙂

    Also, make sure not to touch your hard drive…
    Pretty cool though, the idea of artificially adding extra senses.

  2. Heh, yeah, they mention the MRI problem in the article. But is it any different than having any other metal implant, which is quite common nowadays? As for the hard drive, it seems like the strength and/or size of the magnet you need to implant to make these sensations isn’t enough to be too much of a hard drive hazard.

    What about an open architecture for sensory augmentation? Modular implant casings, sensor implants, and a communication protocol to connect them to a network. It doesn’t even have to be high tech, just sterile. 🙂

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