Grindhouse Wetware
Whether bio-hacking company Grindhouse Wetware’s customers want the mark of the beast or just a silly illuminated tattoo, its staff aims to please.

The Pittsburgh-based startup, which previously created a device that sends biological data wirelessly to a phone or tablet, has a new product. The Northstar V1 lights up under a recipient’s skin using five red Surface-Mounted-Device Light-Emitting Diodes, or SMD LEDs. They are activated for ten seconds when a magnet gets near a specific sensor. The device is powered by a 3 volt CR2325 battery.

Northstar Version 2 will be add gesture recognition and Bluetooth capabilities to its list of features.

“Humans tend to enjoy modifying their bodies for aesthetic reasons. Methods of modification include dying and styling hair, getting tattoos, piercing various parts of their body, getting subdermal silicone shapes, or adding foreign material to alter the shape of breasts, lips, abs, thighs, etc. It’s not our thing to judge how people choose to express or modify themselves – we’re just glad they can do it,” the company posted on Tech Insider’s Facebook page Tuesday. “We can’t wait to see the interesting and creative ways citizen scientists, artists, makers, and hackers use Northstar to backlight tattoos, work them into dance routines, mimic bioluminescence, or numerous other things we can’t even begin to imagine right now.”

(Photo: Grindhouse Wetware)

(Photo: Grindhouse Wetware)

(Photo: Grindhouse Wetware)

(Photo: Grindhouse Wetware)

The company knows the new product works because five of its staff had the Northstar V1 implanted under their skin by body modification artists, Tech Insider reported Monday.

Jessica Waldrip, a programmer at Grindhouse Wetware, uploaded video of her procedure to YouTube Nov. 7.

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Grindhouse Wetware acknowledges that scientists will use bio-hacking devices, but its website declines to address ethical questions related to the technology.

“What do you want to be today?” the landing page asks, an acknowledgement that scientists may eventually change entire species through biotechnology.

The company’s Frequently Asked Questions page says its technology will be “the first step toward a higher biology, and a step toward human-computer interfaces.”

A Grindhouse Wetware employee has bio-technology implanted under her skin (Photo: Youtube, Bird Machine)

A Grindhouse Wetware employee has bio-technology implanted under her skin (Photo: Youtube, Bird Machine)

Wetware Grindhouse says it is “glad” people will be able to drastically modify their bodies in the future, but bioethicists are much more cautious.

New York University bioethicist Brendan Parent spoke to Oregon Public Radio Nov. 5 on the implications of emerging “gene drive” technology, which allows researchers to cause permanent mutations to a species. Advocates see it as an opportunity to rid the world of famine and disease, while critics say the technology opens a giant Pandora’s Box.

“There are inherent problems with gene drives. We don’t know what other impacts we’re having. We don’t know whether the elimination of malaria specifically won’t somehow have genetic effects that cause a super-virulent pathogen to be released or to bring in much greater catastrophic consequences,” Parent said.

“If any group or country wanted to develop germ warfare agents they could use techniques like this. It would be quite straightforward to make new pathogens this way,” added New York Medical College cell biologist Stuart Newman.

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Grindhouse Wetware is still working out pricing for the Northstar V1. Its products are also open-sourced, which means individuals can use the company’s schematics to build custom models.

“At Grindhouse, we firmly believe that with imagination and drive, any of us can feel and touch EMF fields, explore its contours, sense the temperature of objects across a room, navigate a room using a sonar sense, or even connect your body to the Internet – right now. It is that dream above all that drives us to create,” the company says on its website.

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