Biohacking Myself Part 1

Update:  I’m in the News!

The core of this idea is tinkering with the biological in accordance with the hacker ethos.  Essentially taking something that was meant to do something specific and making it do something else.  In this case it means integration of electronics in a biological host.  By “host”, I mean me.

Video and pics to follow after confirmation the News company has printed and uploaded both….

The Goal

Basically what I was looking to do with this is start part 1 of a much cooler, larger, and riskier project.  I want to build something the world has never seen before and use it to kickstart the things I want.

For this part though, I’m just looking to pop my cherry and see what it means to have this integration.  What does it look like?  Is it ugly?  Is it useful? What can I do with something very simple?

The Plan

Let’s start simple.  I planned to get an NFC (think wireless payment like your credit card or travel card) chip implanted into my hand.  Somewhere that it doesn’t get in the way, somewhere it can be useful, and somewhere that won’t go too wrong if it does go wrong.

Fortunately there’s a company in the USA that has taken an NTAG216 compliant NFC chip, coated it in bioglass 8625, and made it available in a nice little kit.  Maybe I’m not the first person to do this, but at least I know it’s not too super dangerous.

So let’s take this thing and jam it into my hand.  The only place I’d trust to do that, other than a doctor, is a piercing place.  As luck would have it, Pete from Piercing Urge is my man when it comes to foreign objects jammed in your hand.  I did get some offers from my drunk friend who is SUPER into piercings, but that’s a no go.  My hands are my primary source of income right now.

The Kit

The kit contains a set of rubber gloves, a shroud so you can look like a doctor, a prep kit of disinfectant, the chip….preloaded in the biggest goddamn syringe I’ve ever had used on me.  The syringe is about as thick as a pen ink.  The chip can’t be read while it’s in the syringe and it comes pre-loaded so it’s all sterile and safe.  So scanning and testing beforehand isn’t going to happen.  I tried.  Very unnerving.


The Procedure

Being something new and a little bit novel, someone at work (remember I work for a large media organisation) heard about it and wanted to do a story on the whole thing.  So we organised the date and time to get it all done.  The procedure took longer than normal.  Mostly because I had a photographer from the papers, a reporter who wanted video, and the chip tried to escape through the entry wound after the syringe was removed.

Chip Size

The pain wasn’t too bad.  No worse than an ear piercing.  In fact it went to a dull sting very quick and never got any worse.  Unfortunately the photographer and reporter wanted reaction shots that were more dramatic than the whole thing really was.  So they made me pull faces and look at their camera a lot when I really wanted to watch the whole thing.



There have been no complications so far, I healed extremely well as usual for me.  Reading and writing to the chip was difficult originally, but after the minimal swelling went down it became easier to write to and read from it.  I’ve been using my android phone so far, which has shown that the software for this kind of thing is still really inefficient and argumentative.  So what I’d initially thought was weak signal, was in fact bad software.

What have I used it for?

I’ve normally got my business card programmed in there as a vCard.  This has had an unusual side-effect.  I’ve been to a few parties since then and when someone hears about the chip, they ask me to show them.  This is mostly a lot of girls (I think guys are trying to be aloof about the whole thing) and so I inevitably end up scanning my hand with their phone.  I’ve given my number out to more girls in the last few weeks than I have in the last few years.

For a while I had some text to speech programmed in there.  So when I scanned the chip it would say, “Help me, I’m stuck in this human and I can’t get out!”.  Of course I programmed a masturbation joke in there too, but we won’t cover that here.

Embarrassingly enough, I got drunk one night while investigating the capabilities and password locked the thing.  I locked myself out of my own hand.  Considering my profession, this was hilarious.  I had to tell my colleagues no matter how embarrassing.  Eventually I worked it out and unlocked the thing.  But for a minute there I was working out the logistics of removing it.

The latest I have set up is the morning work routine.  When I get into the building at work, I scan my hand on my phone and it confirms my wifi is on, checks that I’m on the work wifi, then says “Welcome back sir, I’ll fire up the console”, before finally following up using Wake On LAN to start up my computer.  Very “Iron Man” if I do say so myself.


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