If you've always wanted to be a cyborg, an artificially-enhanced human with bionic technology, but you've always been too afraid of getting a chip in your wrist, North Sense might be your answer. The new product, which vibrates every time it senses the magnetic north, is hinged into your skin with piercing barbells.
Created by Cyborg Nest, a new company and online shop, North Sense is the first cyborg product in a series that will launch over the coming year. The company will show off its progress at an event in Las Vegas on July 26.
The company is co-founded by world-renowned cyborg artists Neil Harbisson and Moon Ribas alongside digital entrepreneur Scott Cohen, body modification artist Steve Haworth and Liviu Babitz, the former COO of the human rights organizations, Videre Est Credere.
"We aim to help as many people as possible become cyborgs," said Liviu.
North Sense is what they call an "artificial sense" that vibrates each time you're facing magnetic north, which humans have no natural ability to sense.
"We believe that if we could sense something that animals can sense, we can understand more about this world," said Babitz.
"Understanding will lead us to also respect more, create more and make the next positive steps in the future of our evolution."
Working with geography is important to Babitz, who calls the northern direction "one of the strongest and most important natural forces part of our planet."
It could simply be a wearable but the team at Cyborg Nest wanted to make it permanent.
"This is not a wearable which we can choose to have some days and some not," said Babitz. "If North Sense is not permanently part of us, it will just be a compass tool."
More than just a vibrating compass app on your chest (which is where they recommend putting it), its permanency adds a layer of meaning that ties into the Cyborg Nest philosophy.
"By constantly sensing the magnetic north, it gives us a whole new perception about our continuous orientation with earth and nature, which is another major pillar to connect us even more to our planet and the forces that drive it," he said.
But could it be our sixth, extended sense? Babitz says yes, although it's not a natural one. "Artificial senses are not here to manipulate the reality in any way, just as our natural senses do not intentionally do that," he said.
We aim to help as many people as possible become cyborgs.
The product, which sells for $350, will ship this fall. It can be hinged into the body by a professional body piercer and will apparently only takes minutes to anchor into the skin. After the piercing heals, the vibrating gadget can be hinged onto the metallic barbells. And it's both waterproof and rechargeable.
Before they start shipping, though, Babitz will be the first to install North Sense into his body. "I can't wait," he said. "I have the curiosity of a child."
He might not be alone, as the World Economic Forum says cyborgs will be far more common by 2020. But that's only four years away and there's still a lot of work to do.
"One major factor is to create trust in this new future," said Babitz, who says that it's the responsibility of companies like Cyborg Nest to create safe products of the highest professional standard. "We are dealing with the human body, and we have a lot of respect for it," he adds.
With its electronic parts made by Nistec, a electronics manufacturing company, North Sense is safety and functionality certified, according to its FAQ. The piece is coated in silicone and doesn't touch the skin but hovers above it.
"Since this is not a full implant, and the parts going under the skin are regular type of piercings, there is no need for anything further," said Babitz.
"It being attached to the body is nothing different than a watch, a fitness thing or a bluetooth phone device, very regular things," he adds, noting that North Sense is going to be tested by a quality testing company, "so the owners know they have a certified safe product."
For their future projects, which could potentially go under the skin, they'll be working with "different government bodies," he said. "What is clear, is that we will never release to the market products that do not compile with the safety and health standard needed."
The Cyborg Nest event on Tuesday will showcase North Sense and be a meet-and-greet to body piercing artists who will be fitting North Sense onto customers when the product is available this fall. They'll be featuring world-renowned body piercing and modification artists—they're already in Las Vegas for the Association of Professional Piercers 'annual conference—alongside Babitz, Haworth and tech experts, which have yet to be confirmed. It'll be a mashup of body piercers and tech geeks, but that's precisely the point.
"We want to create a bridge between the tech world and the body modification and piercing world," said Babitz. "Through us and others, they will start to become part of the same world, which I find fascinating and romantic."