Tech festival launches with injectable microchips … under the skin

A festival VIP pass holder has the microchip injected under his skin.

A festival VIP pass holder has the microchip injected under his skin. Photo: Mark Gambino

If you thought having movie tickets emailed to your smartphone was the pinnacle of modern technology, think again.

Australia’s annual creative technology event Pause Fest launched in Melbourne this week in a very novel way – by implanting NFC computer chips into the hands of VIP pass holders.

Known as ‘injectables’, like ‘wearables’, the chips are injected just under the skin, near the thumb, and store secure information to allow users to carry out simple tasks like unlock doors or swipe a public transport travel pass with the wave of a hand.

The five-day event – to be held from February 7 to 11, 2018 – will bring together more than 150 people from the world’s leading creative and tech businesses to explore development and application of technology.

It is fitting, then, that the event was announced with this ‘biohacking’ initiative. ‘Biohacking’ describes body modification and augmentation to enhance and improve everyday life, of which sub-dermal technology is one variation.

No pain, no gain

“It feels a bit like tattoo pain and I can definitely feel something in there,” said Tommy McCubbin, a recipient of a Pause Fest injectable VIP pass.

“Seeing my hand being acknowledged [scanned] by a smartphone made me feel like a proper cyborg.”

A creative technologist based in Melbourne, Mr McCubbin was slowly sipping lemonade to keep his blood sugar up, following the brief procedure. Many describe the experience as a little like giving blood.

“The best ideas come from constraints,” he said.

“The proper use for this hasn’t been figured out yet, so the best way to do that is to force it upon yourself and figure it out.

“In the short term it will get me into the festival or be my Myki (travel) card. But in the long term, I’m hoping to discover what this thing is really capable of.”

While it may seem extreme to some, there is every indication that injectable technology may soon become as widespread as the humble fitness tracker or smartwatch, taking care of simple tasks and making life just that little bit easier.

Still limited uses

Currently, injectable technology has limited applications, says expert Kayla Heffernan.

“You can use it to unlock your phone or log into a computer. People use it to access their home or work; some have even gone as far as modifying their car or motorbike to unlock and start it, but you need a bit of programming knowledge to do that.”

Ms Heffernan, who is studying insertable devices as her PhD at University of Melbourne, says researchers are working on greater features for injectables, that will enable users to carry out multiple functions at once.

“There’s also a small amount of storage; when it’s scanned it can share contact details, open a website or share portfolio details,” she said.

Pause Fest 2018 will be the first Australian event to use injectable technology to replace a conventional ticketing system. Basically, VIP ticket holders will become cyborgs to access the event.

Would you inject a microchip into your body to make life easier? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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