Becoming a cyborg is now almost as effortless as ordering paper towels on Amazon Prime. With the help of artists and body-augmentation proponents Moon Ribas and Neil Harbisson—Ribas uses an elbow sensor that registers earthquakes for avant-garde dance performances; the colorblind Harbisson as an antenna implanted in his skull that transposes the visual stimuli of color into sound—Liviu Babitz and Scott Cohen launched the biohacking company Cyborg Nest in 2016. With the release of their first product, North Sense, an artificial sensory implant that detects the electromagnetic field of the planet, cybernetics is available to everyday consumers for the first time. Requisite for entry: a credit card number and a visit to your local piercing studio.
The small device is embedded in the user’s chest via two titanium bars and vibrates when facing the Earth’s magnetic pole, eventually constructing new neural pathways to the brain. In other words, it acts a body part that perceives a sixth sense. “It doesn’t ask if you want to know where the north is, it’s always on you. It’s like your eyes—you’re not going to take them off when you read an email, or take your ears off after listening to a song,” Babitz says. “Just like you remember things by the colors or sounds of an environment, after wearing the North Sense for a while, you’ll start referring to places by their position on the planet. North for me means many places and memories today, a new way to perceive and understand space.” As for the utility of transforming into a human compass, Babitz isn’t fully certain what possibilities await with this type of enhancement. And that excites him. “There is much more around us than we can sense with our born-with senses. Every industry is built on one or more of our senses. Imagine what we’ll do with new ones. Humanity’s glass ceiling of creation will expand enormously.