Saturday, June 6, 2009

8 awesome things you can implant into your body

8 awesome things you can implant into your body

Wolverine has some fun tricks up his sleeve — and under his flesh, actually. He heals quick, his bones are made of virtually indestructible adamantium, and everybody's envious of his retractable claws.

So how about the rest of us mere mortals? Well, if you weren't born a mutant, there's still hope in the wild world of implants. Want a robotic arm like Bishop's? They exist. Want to sling metal like Magneto? You can do that, too.

It's all inside — click Continue to check out eight body implants that make super powers a reality.

Implants-1-Subdermal-Magnets.jpg 1. Subdermal magnet
Ian McKellen really steals the show as Magneto every time he pops up in X-Men. Who wouldn't want to twist a tank turret into a pretzel, or stop a wall of bullets just like Neo? Steve Haworth, whose finger is pictured above, was so taken by the idea that he had body artist Jesse Jarrell implant a magnet under the fingertip of his ring finger.

In the future: Haworth can do more than just pick up ball bearings. Since he's got a rare earth magnet literally at his fingertip, he can "sense" electromagnetic fields, such as if an electric cord is live or if a hard drive is about to stall. You probably won't see the Geek Squad rushing out to get subdermal magnets implanted, though, as body mods become more popular, it'll be interesting to see what functional applications they serve, too.

2. DEKA arm
Bishop didn't let the fact that Predator X ripped off his arm get him down. He got a newer, faster and stronger one — a bionic arm. Similarly, disabled veterans and anyone missing an arm could one day sport a DEKA arm, developed for $100 million by Dean Kamen in cooperation with the Pentagon.

In the future: While a prosthetic leg can more or less be something to just balance on, an arm needs to be fully articulate to be useful — especially when it comes to the hands — and the DEKA arm is so sensitive that it can pinch a grape without bursting it. In theory, the DEKA arm is far stronger than a human one, though the connectors attaching it to the body can't quite stand the same load. Still, imagine what this baby could do all juiced up! Now we just need a bionic shoulder (or hell, a body like Colossus) to handle it.

3. Brain-machine interface
The guy wearing the goofy helmet you see above is actually a Honda researcher, and he's controlling the Asimo next to him with nothing but his mind. While Honda's version doesn't require invasive brain surgery, the more responsive systems do. Cyborgs, anyone? Any one of the X-Men would love to be able to control one of the giant, mutant-hunting Sentinels, though a character such as Karima Shapandar would actually need this technology to exist and control her bionic body.

In the future: Brain-machine interfaces represent a unique way for us to interact with robots on a very articulate level. Really, you could do whatever you're doing in your home right now, but in London, controlling a robot there. Beyond simple telepresence, it allows for applications such as a surgeon performing a difficult operation from afar, or soldiers fighting without even stepping onto the battlefield.

4. Thought-to-speech cerebral implant
Still in the early stages of development, prosthetic speech implants capitalize on the still-healthy speech centers that persist even when a person loses the ability to speak. Right now it's mostly syllables being produced in studies, though it's only a matter of time before full words can be formed. That's great news for anyone who can't talk, but — we can't help but wonder — would would happen if you gave this thing some more juice?

In the future: Turn a prosthetic speech implant up to 11 and you've got yourself a sonic scream, à la Banshee. Make it waterproof and you're just as "super powered" as Aquaman Sammy "Squidboy" Paré. Special throat mics already allow for sub-vocal communication, but implants would take that a step further, perhaps facilitating the ability to speak where we normally wouldn't be able to.

5. Eyeborg
Filmmaker Rob Spence beat us to the punch with his awesome planned video camera prosthetic eye. He named it after the Borg and the added LED has him looking as handsome as any Terminator. What's there left for us to do? Compare it to the X-Men, that's what.

In the future: There's a pretty rich stable of glowy-eyed heroes and villains in the Marvel universe. (Actually, you could probably find any Marvel character with LED-like eyes somewhere in the plethora of comics.) We'll give this one to Cable, though, who rocks a bionic eye (nice try, Longshot — you're not fooling anyone). Rob Spence already plans to put a video camera in his prosthetic, now he just needs to include a variety of vision enhancers and he'll be a match for the time traveling cyborg.

6. Subdermal RFID chip
If you're squeamish about needles, you may want to skip the video above. Here's a little theater of the mind for you: Man decides he wants a radio frequency identification chip implanted inside of him; man gets a really big, nasty syringe and a friend; man's friend helps hold the skin while he pokes the syringe (rather slowly) into his hand, inserting the chip. The embedded RFID chip is only readable from about two inches away from his hand, but it's perfect for opening his gun locker in a pinch.

In the future: What we've got here is a genuine DIY superhero, with a little imagination. Plenty of Marvel heroes have a "touch stuff" power. Rogue sucks the life out of people, for instance. Gambit powers up his throwing cards. Though not as flashy, RFID Man is using the technology the way he should in our mutantless world. His neck project? To get his radio frequency ID'd hand to start his car's ignition.

7. Cochlear implant
When the Bionic Man's hair turned gray, he didn't get your average hearing aid — he got a cochlear implant. The "bionic ear" is quite a piece of work, with an external microphone and a miniature processor coupled with a pair of magnetic coils. Mileage varies from patient to patient as to how well it helps them hear, but — as we often do — we have to wonder what a technology like this could be capable of when beefed up a bit.

In the future: With a nickname like the "bionic ear," we want to be able to hear a pin drop from a mile away. Superhuman hearing is one of those often tacked-on powers to round out any superhero, though it's worth noting that Banshee — mentioned earlier for his sonic scream — makes good use of it, and even passed on the trait to his daughter, Siryn. Really, though, we'd settle for a cochlear implant that doesn't take up so much of the skull's real estate, as the solution is used for both adults and kids.

8. Vagus nerve simulation chip
Say hello to the happiest chip you'll ever have in your shoulder. It helps epileptic wearers control seizures (Gentle, I'm looking at you), and it's believed to be an effective treatment for depression. The device subjects the vagus nerve in the neck to a series of electrical pulses, so it's a bit like having a mini-Magneto inside of you, though the bolts he'll sling your way aren't meant to help.

In the future: An implant that pumps you full of electricity? If we lived in the Marvel universe, someone would get a ton of these things installed and let Zeus loose. Here in the real world, however, it seems a bit like an electrical Soma. But maybe we need a little bit of that. Psychiatrists have found that not all patients respond well to pill treatments and — if happy's happy — who's to frown on a shocking little implant?

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