AUSTIN (KXAN) — Advocates of “body hacking” will gather in Austin this weekend to promote everything from bionic limbs to human microchips that can serve as anything from identification to a car key.
BDYHAX 2019, the fourth iteration of the annual conference, brings together a wide cross-section of technology and techniques to make a person’s body work better — or, at least, work differently.
“That’s prosthetics, that’s wearable tech, that’s yoga and body modification,” said Trevor Goodman, event director and co-founder of the conference.
Goodman showed off his own most recent “hack,” a radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip in his left hand. It’s the same technology veterinarians implant into pets as a way to identify dogs and cats, but humans are using them to make their lives simpler or, in some cases, safer.
“You can log into your computer, you could open your doors” with the chips, Goodman said. “I know people who start their motorcycles this way; I know people who start their cars this way. I know a guy who has his gun set to only fire if it detects his RFID implant.”
Those attending the weekend conference will be able to have a chip implanted for less than $100, Goodman said, along with being able to experience other technologies that are changing human bodies.
Andromeda Entertainment will be at BDYHAX 2019 as well, showing off virtual reality meditation programs they’re developing. A user wears a VR headset and headphones, with a microphone laying on his or her chest. The program gives instructions for making long vocal tones while abstract colors and shapes play in the headset.
“You use your voice to fall into a meditative trance,” Robin Arnott, Andromeda’s CEO, said.
Arnott and his team are focused on using technology to help keep people healthy and at peace. “There are so many innovators in the space asking important questions about technology and its role in our lives,” he said, “and asking, ‘Okay, what is the role that can most serve us, most nourish us?'”
Another company exhibiting at the conference, Open Bionics, makes bionic prosthetic arms for people the organization calls “limb-different.” The 3D-printed devices use electrical signals from the part of the arm that remains to grip and move objects, just as a biological hand does.
The visually-impaired can also benefit from some of the featured tech with an app that translates what a smartphone camera sees into audio signals; those with hearing loss can try a vest with various vibrating nodes attached that translate sound into a system of pulses.
“A lot of this technology is here and a lot of this technology exists now,” Goodman said. “We’re not a futurism show.”
It’s also not a show about gene editing and creating designer babies, he explained. The focus instead is on self-directed modification and augmentation, with ethics and autonomy at the forefront.
The conference’s tagline, “Get chipped, or don’t,” embodies that philosophy. And while exhibitors will demonstrate the kind of tech that is already changing lives, there’s a lot more to come.
“All this is tech in progress,” Arnott, Andromeda’s CEO, said. “I think our technological landscape is going to look very different five years from now.”
The conference runs Saturday and Sunday at the event venue LZR in downtown Austin. Tickets will be sold at the event itself, but Friday is the last day to buy them at a discount here.