Pushing the body’s boundaries: BodyHacking Conference 2017 kicks off

From head to toe, the human body is one of the most remarkable things in existence. It’s been crafted over millions of years of evolution into the highly adaptable biosystems we embody today. But flesh is flawed — and a growing community of hackers want to make bodies better.

Ask a dozen self-proclaimed bodyhackers to describe their vocation and you’ll get a dozen differing definitions. Through nutritional genomics, nutritionists alter diets to better suit their DNA. DIY biochemists perform at-home fecal transplants to treat an irritated gut. Garage tinkerers re-engineer hearing aids to tune into far out frequencies. Grinders put tech directly into their bodies, such as implanting magnets into the flesh of their fingers, to experience new senses. All would don the badge “bodyhacker,” a catch-all term for someone who aims to augment the body for optimized or enhanced performance.

Bodyhackers from around the world have come to Austin, Texas this weekend to attend the second annual BodyHacking Conference (BDYHAX) where artists, academics, grinders, and cyborgs have gathered to discuss the methods, ethics, and legality involved.

“We wanted to make it interdisciplinary,” Trevor Goodman, BDYHAX event manager, told Digital Trends, “to bring together anyone who’s interested in bodyhacking and modification to the same place to share resources and learn from each other.”

The conference informally kicked off Friday night as models took to the runway forPut Together: A Bodyhacking Fashion Show. Their outfits were created by a handful of tech-oriented designers looking to push fashion forward. Headpieces twinkled with LEDs. Some models stumbled onto stage in monstrous 3D-printed dresses. Others sported echolocation headphones and temperature-controlled jackets.

The fashion show opened with Waiting for Earthquakes, an interpretive dance by Cyborg Foundation co-founder Moon Ribas who can sense earthquakes in real time through an implant in her arm.

Biotech startups like Dangerous Things, Cyborg Nest, and Grindhouse Wetware are in attendance to show off their gear (some even offering on-site implants). Booths are occupied by companies like BrainPort, which makes a device that lets users see the world through their tongue; and NeoSensory, a vest that translates sounds into vibrations to help hearing impaired patients better comprehend speech. BDYHAX has also partnered with E-NABLE to build and donate 3D-printed prosthetic hands for children in need.

Bodyhacking is still in its experimental infancy and some people here acknowledge that such a conference is sort of premature. But they all also feel they’re on the cusp of something significant, a brave new world in which the body takes on new forms.

We’ll cover the bodyhacking movement over the next few weeks in a series of features about the legal implications of implanted tech, the safety of DIY procedures, and what humans might look like in the future. Most importantly, we’ll speak to some of the experts and most prominent figures in the field to figure out what the future might look like for humans.

Emerging Tech

How 3D printing has changed the world of prosthetic limbs forever

When he was 13 years old, Christophe Debard had his leg amputated. Here in 2019, Debard's Print My Leg startup helps others to create 3D-printed prostheses. Welcome to a growing revolution!
Emerging Tech

A battery-free pacemaker harvests and stores energy from heartbeats

Researchers in China and the United States have developed a new battery-free pacemaker which gathers its required electricity from the energy of heartbeats. Here's why that's so exciting.
Movies & TV

Skip the flowers and sunshine this spring and watch the best shows on Hulu

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (April 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Emerging Tech

Gravitational forces at heart of Milky Way shaped this star cluster like a comet

Hubble has captured the stunning Messier 62 cluster. The cluster is warped, with a long tail which stretches out to form a shape like a comet. It is thought this distortion is due to Messier 62's proximity to the center of the galaxy.
Emerging Tech

The grid of the future will be powered by … giant subterranean bagpipes?

In order to transition to a more renewable-focused energy system, we need to scale up our grid storage capacity --- and our existing methods aren't going to cut it. Could compressed air be the key?
Emerging Tech

Burgers are just the beginning: Embracing the future of lab-grown everything

You’ve almost certainly heard of the 'farm to fork' movement, but what about 'lab to table'? Welcome to the fast-evolving world of lab-grown meat. Is this the future of food as we know it?
Emerging Tech

Troubleshooting Earth

It’s no secret that humans are killing the planet. Some say it’s actually so bad that we’re hurtling toward a sixth major extinction event -- one which we ourselves are causing. But can technology help us undo the damage we’ve…
Emerging Tech

Inside the Ocean Cleanup’s ambitious plan to rid the ocean of plastic waste

In 2013, Boyan Slat crowdfunded $2.2 million to fund the Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit organization that builds big, floating trash collectors and sets them out to sea, where they’re designed to autonomously gobble up garbage.
Emerging Tech

Climeworks wants to clean the atmosphere with a fleet of truck-sized vacuums

Using machines that resemble jet engines, Climeworks wants to fight climate change by extracting CO2 from thin air. The gas can then be sold to carbonated drink and agriculture companies, or sequestered underground.
Emerging Tech

Geoengineering is risky and unproven, but soon it might be necessary

Geoengineering is a field dedicated to purposely changing the world's climate using technology. Call it 'playing god' if you must; here's why its proponents believe it absolutely must happen.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Earth Day, indoor container farming, robot submarines

Today on Digital Trends Live, we discuss how technology intersects with Earth Day, a new Tim Cook biography, indoor container farming, robot spy submarines, A.I. death metal, and more.
Gaming

Google’s Stadia is the future of gaming, and that’s bad news for our planet

Google’s upcoming Stadia cloud gaming service, and its competitors, are ready to change the way gamers play, but in doing so they may kick off a new wave of data center growth – with unfortunate consequences for the environment.
Emerging Tech

Hawaiian botanists’ drone discovers a plant thought to be lost forever

In what may well be a world first, botanists in Hawaii recently used a drone to find a species of plant that scientists believed was extinct. The plant was located on a sheer cliff face nearly 20 years after its last sighting.