Too Much Time In My Hand

"I tell people I'm the first cyborg but really I'm not" the 40 something professor says with a smile. "The classical definition of a cyborg is a man/machine combination and Doctors have been doing that for several years now with pacemakers and artificial hearts.

Professor Ceaven's shows off his subdermal timepiece

But what makes Ceaven's stand out from the rest of the cybernetic pack is the fact that he is the first person to get a microchip implanted beneath the surface of his skin. He's had the chip inside his right arm for the last 5 months.

Designed by NewBioYou, a company that Ceaven co-founded with a surgeon and another professor at the college, this microchip is a test to see if such a application of technology is feasible.

"I'm a human guinea pig" Ceaven says, "If I don't explode then we know it's safe."

Along with the microchip is a LCD display which illuminates under the skin. It takes the place of a normal watch and shows the time, It can be deactivated by Ceaven with a touch to turn it off. The whole device is powered by a battery which can be recharged by holding his wrist near a recharging device. A small receiver, also imbedded in the skin, can be activated by a computer scanner and accept time change information.

"The time is almost just a showoff thing." Ceaven tells me, "The most important aspect of the chip for me is to keep track of my location when I'm in the robotics building here on campus. We've installed sensors that can read the chip in several different rooms. For example, when I enter my office the lights come on and my computer jump starts. It even automatically starts the coffeemaker in the snack room. My secretary has a computer program she can access to show where I am in the building if something important comes up."

Cost for this prototype was high but Ceaven and his partners expect the price to quickly fall if the chips are mass produced and surgery becomes routine.

"The whole thing could be set up in a shopping mall just like they're doing with laser vision corrective surgery nowadays. You plop down your charge card and 2 hours later, boom, you've got a chip to make your life easier."

Other applications for the microchip include blood and temperature monitors for those with medical conditions, prisoner monitoring devices or decorative patterns for those into the piercing and tattooing scene.

"I'm just the tip of the iceberg." Ceaven states, "These things could be as common as contact lenses in 5 years."


-interview with Harrold Ceaven, July 12th, 1999

photo by Derek Barnes

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