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Published Sunday, January 25, 2015

Grindhouse Wetware

Northstar implant, photo courtesy of Ryan O'Shea

Recently, I had the incredible opportunity to sit down with the folks at Grindhouse Wetware, makers of awesome electronic implant devices, and chat with them about their work, and where they see the future of modification going.


  1. So the big question that I think our readers will want to know is: What are your products made of and will they give me cancer? I'm kidding, but only sort of. I get so many emails about different materials and this is like number one all the time.

Northstar V1 is a printed circuit board (PCB) with five red Surface-Mounted-Device Light-Emitting Diodes (SMD LEDs), which are activated for ten seconds when a magnet gets near the Hall effect sensor. The device is powered by a 3 volt CR2325 battery. The device is coated in Paralyne C for safety and then everything is encased in implant grade silicone. The shape helps to eliminate stress points and aid in comfort.

Silicone implants have been successfully done for decades. These devices are implanted by trained professionals in sterile, safe environments. The hand is a common place for these types of implants. There is risk involved when putting anything into or near your body. There are risks when skydiving or driving a car as well. That doesn't inherently make it these activities not worth it - it means you work to mitigate the risks and make sure they are known.

  1. If someone has an implant like this, what happens if they need to get an MRI?

Northstar devices have undergone extreme testing including puncturing, blunt force impact, extreme temperature, submersion, pressure, cytotoxicity, and more. At this point, a test in an MRI machine has not been a part of that. After talking with some of our contacts in the medical field, we believe the device would be treated like a pacemakers and other implanted medical devices, which are are dealt with on a case-by-case basis. If someone knows they're going to have to get an MRI, we'd recommend against getting a Northstar to be on the safe side. The good news is that MRI tests are not typically done in emergency situations and are planned in advance.

  1. What kind of things can you do with your products?
    Northstar up close, photo courtesy of Ryan O'Shea

Most people are familiar with the Northstar V1 device, which shines red light through the skin, mimicking bioluminescence.

The Bottlenose device works in tandem with an implanted finger magnet. In addition to picking up or moving small metal objects, the implanted magnets enable users to feel the vibration of the magnet when in contact with the fields of electronic devices. By manipulating these fields, you’re able send data to the finger magnet. Grindhouse has added sensors to the Bottlenose device to transmit information such as distance and temperature. By using Bluetooth to pair the Bottlenose with an internet-connected device, you’re able to transmit information such as text messages, weather, time of day, calendar events, and other notifications through Morse code.

With Northstar V2, which is currently in development, you’ll be able to control Internet of Things devices with the wave of a hand. You can set a gesture to correspond with a specific action, such as turning off your lights, locking your doors, starting your car, adjusting volume, sending messages, and more.

Tim Cannon previously had an early prototype of the Circadia device implanted in his left forearm. This constantly took his temperature sent it out over Bluetooth to an Android device. This data could be used to trigger alerts when temperature spikes or drops suddenly, be used to automatically control an internet connected thermostat, or alert medical services if an emergency is detected. The first commercial version of Ciradia is currently in development, and will track many physiological metrics beyond temperature, enabling new insights into health, behavior, and performance.

  1. Are you planning on developing anything in plugs? I know people are keen to get them. Like REALLY keen.

At the moment we haven't planned on doing anything with plugs because we haven't heard any interest in them. I don't think developing plugs with lights in them would be too difficult for us to do if we chose to look into that as a future product. - Justin

The mission of Grindhouse Wetware is to make technology that augments human capabilities and enables people to transcend biological limitations. While more aesthetic devices such as Northstar V1 are of interest, they aren’t the end goal. If technology in plugs could help Grindhouse towards that goal (or could help finance the projects that do work towards that goal), it’s absolutely something worth considering pursuing. If anyone has an idea of a product that would be in demand and would like us to look into it, send your suggestions to - Ryan

  1. Social stuff. One of the biggest things I see people interested in is the social aspect of electronic piercing jewelry. One company in Japan is developing earrings that help you sense the location of other people wearing them at a party. Are you guys working on anything that works between people, maybe for a couple or even a group of friends?
Northstar when it isn't glowing, photo courtesy of Ryan O'Shea