Interactive acrylic nails for commuters point toward our cyborg future.
Lucie Davis, a jewellery design student at UK art college Central Saint Martins, has created false nails that are fitted with the chip of an Oyster card, the contactless card used to enter London’s public transit system. Her design would eliminate the need to search for the cards, allowing commuters to simply swipe their hands to navigate through stations or add value to their accounts.
“I’ve been able to challenge the conventions of jewellery and create a collection of pieces which bring to life daily rituals such as commuting,” Davis told the Innovation Group. “I wanted to create a wearable which is light-hearted, playful yet fashionable, and also stimulates our senses.”
With the wearables market expected to hit almost $6 billion by 2018, designs like Davis’s are part of a lucrative and growing business. As a general rule, Transport for London prohibits commuters from taking apart travel cards, but Davis says she is in talks with the agency about using her product in the future.
As connected objects enter our lives with the rise of the Internet of Things and wearable technology, they are becoming more closely intertwined with our bodies. “Biohacking,” or the modification of human bodies with interactive technology, has gained attention recently (including in our Control Shift report), and Davis’s “smart nails” suggest that it could catch on.
At their most extreme, biohackers or “grinders” implant RFID and NFC chips into their bodies to control devices, using their bodies as a means to communicate with technology. Biohacker Brian McEvoy has even implanted a compass under his skin to help with navigation and alert him when he is facing north.
Seattle-based company Dangerous Things has seen sales of its biohacking products increase by 700% in two years. “Biohacking is, in my opinion, the future of human evolution,” Amal Graafstra, the company’s founder, explained in a TEDx talk. “We have a long way to go between now and a thousand years from now and this is going to be critical to getting the right thing.”
Businesses should be conscious of biohacking and its possibilities. People want convenience, and some are willing to modify their bodies to get it. While some biohacking products may seem radical, there are varying extremes that will appeal to different audiences.
In the same way that tattoos, piercings and other forms of body modification have increased, biohacking devices may eventually become as common as wearable technology or pets fitted with tracking devices. Biohacking, wearables, and the Internet of Things present an enormous business opportunity for far-sighted brands.