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How It Feels To Become A Cyborg

What life is like with magnets and microchips under your skin.

How It Feels To Become A Cyborg

What’s easier than paying for a Starbucks latte by iPhone? Paying automatically when your hand picks up your coffee. Seemingly magical interactions like that make many people–including some of the most successful wearables designers in the industry–believe that in the future, our electronics will live under our skin.

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But what’s life like with electronic implants today? Fantastical in an entirely different way, as The Verge‘s Adi Robertson details. Robertson has published a fantastic piece chronicling life with a magnet and NFC (short range) communication chip in her hand. Here, she talks about the magnet:

At a Brooklyn tattoo parlor in 2012, I watched someone cut along the top of my finger, tear open a pocket with a dowel, and slide in a dark rod about half the size of a sunflower seed. Later, when I ran my hand across everything in my apartment and felt it humming over an intercom, I fell in love. I began to catalog sensations: the vicious pinch of picking up a Buckyball, the jitter of using a microwave, the sense of floating when I hovered my hand above another magnet . . .

. . . My body is more like a paper doll than a capable tool, but it holds the seeds of tiny superpowers. I can lift screws out of holes when I’m opening up electronics. I can sweep up pins while I’m sewing. I’m acutely aware of the invisible signals that machines and electronics put out. It’s mostly useless stuff, yes, but how many of the textures you feel qualify as need-to-know information? These days, the magnet no longer feels like magic, but you can still find me waving my hand in front of running microwaves from time to time. I’d feel bereft if I couldn’t sense the little arc over the “Enter” key of my MacBook, which I think means I’m near the hard drive.


Robertson has come to appreciate the sixth sense of magnetism–as mundane as it may be–more than any other promised convenience. It makes you wonder: Are we designing wearable electronics through a too-narrow lens? Should we consider, not just personal tracking or the potential of a faster latte, but also pathways to greater sensations?

Stop reading this already and head over to the Verge to check out the rest of the piece.

Read more here.

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started Philanthroper.com, a simple way to give back every day

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