Wearable tech is gaining traction today with millions of users globally taking advantage of their smart rings, pendants, watches, glasses and fitness trackers. Experts are optimistic about the future of wearable gadgets, too: for instance, eMarketer predicts the number of people to own a wearable in 2018 will grow to over 81,7 million from 39,5 million in 2015. However, as was highlighted at this year's World Economic Forum in Davos, we should anticipate some new tech trends soon and implantable technology is one of them. According to expert predictions, top 3 trends to catch on by 2023 are: implantable tech, human vision as a new interface and a pocket super computer.
That being said, it's quite possible that by 2023 wearable gadgets will be replaced by implantables, a new generation of smart devices to be embedded under our skin to make health and personal data tracking experiences even more personalized and never-ending.
I've reviewed some of the most possible implantable use cases and gadgets that will revolutionize smart technologies as we know them today.
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Smart chips and tattoos
Just like wearable tech, implantable electronics rely fully on a set of chips available for effective data transmission. For instance, back in 2014, artist Anthony Antonellis got a RFID-chip embedded under his hand skin to secure copyright of his works. This chip stores 1 kb of data and is readable by any compatible smartphone, tablet, card reader and the Arduino microcontroller.
‘It’s usually used for privacy, and I’m using it for a public purpose, which is to distribute artwork,’ Mr. Antonellis told Animal NY.
Mr. Antonellis isn’t the first to explore future interactions between technology and our bodies in this way. Amal Graafstra, a famous tech entrepreneur, got 2 RFID-chips implanted in his both hands and he liked it so much that launched his own company called Dangerous Things that manufactures and sells sets for DIY chip embedding. These chips are fully compatible with smart devices and can be programmed to fulfill certain tasks such as open the door, turn off PC, etc. Some of the chips produced by Dangerous Things can be implanted to the finger which allows user to unlock gadgets and enter passwords by finger-pointing only.
Digital smart tattoos are based on the same principle: now Google is working on digital tattoos that will connect to smartphones or game consoles and serve as alternatives to many fitness trackers and other devices that collect biometric data.
Biomagnet and magnet headphones
Biomagnets are becoming more popular among people that like modifying their bodies. Implanted to the finger or underneath the palm skin, such biomagnets let users feel a magnetic field or manipulate tiny iron objects. Such a smart implant can be very useful for people working with tiny mechanisms as it'll help avoid loss of small details.
Magnets can also serve as headphones. In 2013, an American Rich Lee implanted such magnets into his ears and now uses them as earphones that ensure a very high sound quality. Magnetic coil that Lee wears around his neck as a decoration acts as a sensor that transmits signal to implantables.
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Compass and fitness tracker
Software engineer Tim Cannon built and implanted in his hand a new smart gadget called Circadia. Just like a fitness tracker, Circadia monitors user health parameters and helps them solve their issues depending on their current health state. For example, if Cannon is tired, Circadia connects to his smart house and prepares a bathroom for him. However, size is Circadia's biggest demerit now. When implanted in hand, the chip looks like a big rectangular box protruding from under the skin. So, Tim Cannon isn't likely to have many followers unless he adds better usability to the chip's design.
Last summer, NorthStar began to perform in-hand implantation of a smart compass that consists of 5 light-emitting diodes and is fully operated by magnet.
To conclude with, all of the above-mentioned devices look more like exotic gimmicks for enthusiasts of human cyborgization. There won't be any implantable tech boom until we have truly reliable smart devices such as neurointerfaces. DARPA is currently developing a new technology that would enable interaction between the human brain and an external computing device. Known as Neural Engineering System Design, the project aims to build a neurointerface that will look like a miniature biosensor implanted in the human brain and will be able to simultaneously interact with a million neurons.
As implantables go mainstream, app developers will be challenged to come up with innovative approaches to designing invisible interfaces and building apps with proper usability for implantable gadgets. So, it'll be another way to revolutionize app development, won't it?