The Guardian: Magnetic kids, and the scientist with magnets in his fingers

Martin Robbins, who authors the "The Lay Scientist" science blog at The Guardian, has posted an article titled which mentions my magnetic implants and the research on magnetic implant based human-machine interfaces.

I like the last line on the article!:
"Jawish Hameed is not 'Magnetoman', but there's something quite amazing about a species that, given five wonderful senses with which to experience our world, sets about trying to build a sixth."


- Read Magnetic kids, and the scientist with magnets in his fingers

Two years with magnetic implants

The 22nd of this December marked the completion of two years since I had magnets implanted into the middle and ring fingers of my left hand in the hopes of developing a new type of human-machine interface while at University. The research was finally published in our paper "A Novel Human-Machine Interface using Subdermal Magnetic Implants" in the Proc. IEEE International Conference on Cybernetic Intelligent Systems in September this year.

Looking back, it is amusing to see that I had made a post on this blog on my initial thoughts on the possibility of an interface being developed from magnetic implants around the time I first came up with the idea for it. And looking further back, it is kind of embarassing to see the over-excited mildly juvenile post I had made after attending a lecture by Prof. Kevin Warwick, with whom I ended up publishing my first paper with!

Anyway, here is a very recent X-ray image of my hand showing the current state of the 3mm diameter, 0.7mm thick neodymium disc magnets I have implanted in my fingers.



As the X-ray image shows, the magnet in the middle finger stands perpendicular to the phalanx while the one in the ring finger lies parallel. I had intended both magnets to lie parallel to the bone but an unfortunate injury in the first few days post-implantation upset the magnet in the middle finger and eventually had it settle in the position it is in now. I had anticipated pain and other potential issues from to the increased pressure levied on tissue by the edge of the magnet during gripping due to the position it had moved to. Luckily, except for a few situations involving a lot of pressure applied on the finger pad it has not been an issue at all.

The ring finger implant has remained without incident and is the most sensitive to external magnetic fields. Hopefully, it will continue to be like that in the years to come!

Magnetic implant X-ray

I finally got around to digitizing the X-ray image I took of the magnetic implants I have in the fingers of my left hand. The image below shows the location of the implanted disc magnet within the pad of the ring finger.

Magnetic implants: Implantation video

It has been a year and a month since I had a tiny magnet implanted into the middle and ring fingers of my left hand as a central part of my MEng research project in which I was exploring a novel man-machine interface based on these subdermal magnetic implants. The magnets are still in there, safe and sound and still allowing me to "feel" magnetic fields everywhere around me - like around wires, washing machines, microwaves, ATMs, supermarket checkouts, power supplies, hard disks, fans etc. The research is still continuing as we now have another student at the University of Reading Cybernetics department who has gotten the same implants and are providing a second set of data on the properties of the interface.

Anyway, I wanted to share the video of the implantation procedure (blood-filled as it maybe) just posted on YouTube by Mac McCarthy who had performed the procedure on me. The doctors at the university medical practice had refused to do the procedure due to safety and insurance concerns so I had had to find an alternative means of getting the magnets implanted. It took a fair bit digging and looking around before I found Mac's Punctured Body Modification shop. I was slightly nervous at the start since it was the first time that Mac was attempting to perform a procedure of the kind but luckily everything went quite smoothly. It was an interesting experience; sitting in a chair, watching keenly as my fingers were cut, probed, magnet shoved in and incision stitched while blood oozed out...


Yes, that is my hand!

Magnetic implants - playing with magnets

I mentioned briefly but vaguely in a recent post that I was playing guinea pig in some work I was doing as part of my research project at university. Well, it turns out being the guinea pig in this case translates into getting two tiny neodymium (rare-earth metal, high field-strength) magnets implanted into the pads of the middle and index fingers of my left hand!

Magnetic implants (of the sorts I have) are by no means new - a body modification artist called Samppa is said to have experimented with them in the late 90's. However, I became aware of them around 2006 when Wired carried an article by Quinn Norton about her getting such an implant. I was very intrigued by the experiences reported in the article and and by the time I finished reading everything about magnetic implants I could find on the net, I had a few experiments I wanted to run and was itching to get one myself. As I had mentioned in a blog post I made back then, I was mostly interested in the sensory extension that was reported to be brought on by the magnet responding ever so slightly to external electromagnetic fields (such as that produced by current-carrying wires, motors etc). The work I'm doing now essentially involves basic scientific exploration of the effect and building on the ideas I had originally towards a practical application.

The video below shows me playing around with magnets similar to which I have inside my fingers. No real point here, other than just play and a little demonstration of the strength of the implanted magnets ;-) I'll post more details on the type of magnet and the implantation process a bit later...