Sven Johnson reports back from the Future Imperfect once again, rounding up the hottest body-mods, elective surgeries, prosthetic add-ons and extensions of the human condition from a year that’s probably less distant from our own than we suspect.
I don’t normally care for lists, especially at this time of year when we’re inundated with “Best of the Year” lists, “Worst of the Year” lists, and of course the obligatory “New Year’s Resolution List” lists. However, as a pre-emptive strike, I thought I’d jump in with my own contribution; something perhaps a bit different than the usual fare. So without further delay, here’s my “Top Ten Substitutive Pieces List”.
10) Dalidai Mercury Glide Elite – While Sino-Vietnamese upstart Pedamex might have better core mobility components, there’s no question Korea’s Dalidai offers the best skin-support layer technology available on the mass market. So until Pedamex can advance their SSL tech – focusing on design and appearance issues while maintaining performance and controlling cost – most image-conscious consumers are going to choose Dalidai. Unless it’s the Olympics, no one at the pool cares you’re able to swim the 50m a few milliseconds faster, especially if the vat-grown skin covering your prosthetic legs is sloughing off within five minutes of jumping into heavily chlorinated water.
9) ChuTech AREyes III – The artificial eye industry has expended significant time and money these past few years convincing consumers to give their products another try, so it’s no surprise their latest offerings are impressive. However, word on the street is California-based ChuTech’s AREyes III will be the orbs of choice for the next wave of aspiring mixed reality thespians; in other words, ninety percent of the starry-eyed, 12- to 19-year old market segment. So until another angry Hollywood promoter uses a modified anti-piracy security rig to fry a few unsuspecting visual neural connections at the local cineplex, the future looks bright for ChuTech.
8) NooSpine 6000 VUX – If Detroit-based NooSpine’s direct digital, custom manufactured vertebrae were less outrageously priced, the 6000 series would doubtlessly rate higher on this list … if only because NooSpine’s product is “an American tradition” (and about the only manufacturing tradition remaining). Unfortunately, international ads featuring an artificially sustained former Vice President telling the world to “Get A Spine; An American Spine” probably aren’t helping grow their overseas sales volume. As a consequence, we should expect prices to remain arrogantly exorbitant until foreign challengers finally enter the market, introduce more of what consumers actually want, and force NooSpine into an embarrassing bankruptcy from which they’ll need to be rescued by an over-taxed populace. Until then, be on the watch for tail fins.
7) NanoMnemonic Medical, LLC; HippoStor Memory Enhancement Module, Neuro-MEM 360 Type “C” – For a long while after Gibson’s “Johnny Mnemonic“, cybergeeks dreamed of having a chunk of their childhood ripped from their skull, living the dangerous life of a cybernetically enhanced information courier and enjoying the company of $10,000-a-night hookers. Now, with both memory-erasing and memory-enhancing drugs readily available, there’s less interest in having a bunch of Victorian gears wedged into our skulls. However, if you’re allergic to the drugs or over the legal age limit, neurosurgery is the only option; and the Neuro-MEM 360 (the second in the Neuro-MEM line) is considered the best implant currently available, especially among Baby Boomers here in the U.S. where the procedure inexplicably erases the first decade of the 21st Century.
6) BioTac Appendages, Inc. – BioTac’s custom-generated appendages are undoubtedly the first choice of working people coming up a few digits short at the end of a long day. Unfortunately, those losers can’t afford a BioTac replacement, and it’s certainly not the first choice of their insurance carriers. After all, this is still expensive, cutting edge medicine. Only the wealthy – and well-connected conservative politicians – are sporting premium body part substitutions, and they seem especially unwilling to see this technology trickle down to the masses. This, of course, leads me to suspect some appendage substitutions are elective surgery, making this entry less about fingers and more about … well … “I want to say one word to you. Just one word.” Invest.
5) Dr. T’s Flex ‘n Feel Fingers 5000 – You know a technology is mature when a company names itself after a movie written by Dr. Seuss, trounces the competition, and then becomes the standard in artificial fingers (for the working class). The party won’t last too long, though. In a few years, we all know these things will be as out-of-fashion as OLED-encrusted codpieces. For now however, these are the best for the rest. Besides, they come with all those wonderful aftermarket attachments; another open API success story.
4) Naas BioMed, LLC, Technolobe 2112 Ear Replacement – Originally a respected supplier of batch-grown noses to Indian medical centers, Brazil’s Naas BioMed stunned the artificial ear industry with the recent introduction of the Technolobe 2112, an ear replacement so lifelike no one can tell the difference between it and a human ear. Little hairs included. Of course patients must register with their government, be placed on the International Bionically Enhanced Human Watch List, submit to routine unannounced renditions and endure watery interrogations without complaint for any or no reason whatsoever. A small price to pay for a new ear, some people claim. After all, you never know what someone might overhear.
3) Circula’s FabAH – Still going strong all these years, some of you might be aware Circula almost had some competition from AbioMed spin-off CardioIndus this past year when the latter introduced their Mix ‘n Match FabAH Product Selection System into some over-anxious heart clinics. While the idea seems to have merit – patients pick which heart design they want and have it assembled specifically for them – CardioIndus’ flawed study, “Variable Flow Rate Impact Assessment on Non-modified, Non-reinforced Recipient Circulatory Systems“, proved fatal in more ways than one. With CardioIndus now in bankruptcy, it seems Circula will continue to own the market for the foreseeable future, and we’ll just have to wait a while longer before upgrading this particular organ. Thankfully, it’s a quality product.
2) DermaFab’s BioLife Wrinkle-Free Skin – Celebrities were, of course, the first to discover the wonder that is DermaFab’s vat-grown, batch-produced, DNA-modified, biologically enhanced human skin replacement product, but with the ubiquitous Under the Light franchise network licensing DermaFab’s proprietary technology, it seems everyone and their dog has bought into a glowing, wrinkle-free future. I remember when virtual world noobs thought buying avatar texture skins was creepy. Once again, life imitates games.
1) Nephronicks-Glomerulus’ Bioartificial Kidney, Mark I – The current poster child for capitalism in action, Nephronicks-Glomerulus, a start-up funded by virtually the entire alcohol beverage industry, has developed the world’s first practical, implantable bioartificial kidney. And naturally the world is stumbling beating a path to their Swiss doorstep. Nothing says giving back to the community better than the alcohol beverage industry funding artificial kidney research for consumers of alcohol beverage industry products so they can buy more booze. Feel the love and pass the champagne. Again. Happy New Year!
Sven Johnson is an unrooted freelance designer increasingly working at the intersection of tangible and virtual goods. His background is varied and includes a fair amount of travel, a pair of undergraduate degrees and a stint with the US military. He’s a passionate wannabe filmmaker, a once-upon-a-time underground comix creator, and – when facilities are available – an enthusiastic ceramicist who is currently attempting to assemble a transmedia, transreality open-source narrative in what remains of his lifetime.
[Future Imperfect header based on an image by Kaunokainen.]