Insertable & Implantable Tech workshop

Individuals are augmenting their bodies in new ways, by inserting digital devices in, through and underneath their skin where there is no medical need. This one-day workshop, held as part of the CHI 2016 conference in San Jose, aims to explore the concept of insertables with fellow researchers, and discuss new ways in which these could be leveraged for future HCI research.

We invite researchers with an interest in insertables to submit position papers describing their experiences that can extend to insertables.  Particularly those with interested in the following will be well positioned to attend the workshop:

  • Emerging technologies
  • Natural User Interfaces (NUIs)
  • Ubiquitous computing
  • Wearables
  • Embodied interactions
  • Implantable technologies
  • Input technologies

Submissions are now open. Early acceptance round for participants will be announced 21st December 2015.

Early submission deadline: 4th December 2015
Final Submission Deadline: 31st December 2015
Final acceptance round: 13th January 2016
Participants final submissions: 1 February 2016

For more information on submitting visit 

About Insertables

Insertables are a category of devices that go in, through or under the skin. It is an umbrella term that includes existing devices such as implantable medical devices (IMDs) and emerging technologies such as magnets, RFID chips and NFC chips that are inserted under the skin. Our definition includes current insertable objects that are not yet digital, but may include digital components in the future, for example body jewelry, contraceptives, contact lenses, etc. Size and cost reductions of computer components, along with computational power and battery life improvements, has seen devices that were once external become wearable, and even insertable. Within the last decade individual hobbyists have begun voluntarily inserting non-medical. Individuals are voluntarily modifying their bodies by inserting digital devices underneath their skin.

The first documented case of an individual, without a medical need, inserting a device into their body was Professor Kevin Warwick in 1998 [16]. In Warwick’s Cyborg 1.0 experiments he inserted an RFID in to his arm that he then used to access his office, control the office lighting, and programmed his computer to ‘great’ him. Hobbyists, bio-hackers, grinders and other early adopters have been experimenting with these insertables since 2005 [2-4]. In 2005, Amal Graafstra inserted an RFID chip in to his hand with the aid of a cosmetic surgeon friend [2]. Graafstra engendered the current ‘bio-hacker’ and ‘grinder’ movement of individuals semi-permanently modifying their bodies with Radio-frequency Identification (RFID) microchips, near-field communication (NFC) microchips and magnets. Graafstra started an online store,, to sells these insertable devices along with peripherals used to insert them.

Many hobbyists are now augmenting their bodies in new ways by voluntarily inserting non-medical devices [4-6, 10, 11, 15]. There are several examples of individuals who have undertaken these body modifications to voluntarily insert microchips or other electronic devices under their skin, such that they are not visible to the casual observer. Other examples include: Ben Slater who store contact information on a microchip inside his hand [2] and Rich Lee who has magnets embedded into the tragus of each ear and can listen to music through them via a wire-coil necklace [12].

Single-purpose devices in the form of wearables have existed for many years, in the arena of health and wellbeing (for example FitBit, Jawbone etc.), and there has been much research into the efficiency and efficacy of these tools. Devices that go within the body can be contrasted with luggable devices – those which must be carried by a person with effort – and wearable devices – those “worn with clothing or on the body” [3]. Insertables are an extension to wearables. Instead of placing a device on the body when needed, and taking it off again when no longer required, it is now possible to augment the body in a semi-permanent way with an insertable device. This augmentation is typically not visible to others and is comparable to those who choose not to wear eyeglasses and instead insert contact lenses, thereby giving no indication that a visual aide is being used.

This new category of device presents interesting challenges to the HCI community. There are design challenges to both design hardware and software for use with the insertables, and an ecosystem of devices to configure and program the insertables themselves. ‘Insertable’ also becomes a potential mode to deliver devices, as distinct to wearable and luggable devices.

Insertables as New Input and Output devices

There has been a recent increase in the “range of input devices that people can use to interact with computers and applications” [1] and insertable devices are beginning to be added as on of these. Insertables have the potential to become an interaction device of choice for some individuals, there therefore there is an impetus for interaction designers to begin to offer insertable versions of devices, both for input and output. Designer Jennifer Darmour believes “objects need to be designed more carefully so that they may be ‘seamlessly’ integrated into the ‘fabric of our lives’” [16]. Future objects may be more carefully designed to be insertable, into our bodies, through miniaturization and encasing them in bio-inert materials. Extending insertables to receive data will enable interactions designers create interfaces that are truly invisible, and integrated.

Accessibility & Ubiquitous Natural User Interfaces

Insertables are ubiquitous devices, they are “small and unobtrusive” and “comfortable to an extent its existence could be forgotten” [7]. Natural User Interfaces (NUIs) enable users to interact with objects in more natural ways; insertable devices allow individuals to interact as if the technology were not there. Use of insertables as input to existing interfaces removes the need for individuals to stop and interact with devices, making interactions natural and seamless. The fact that insertables are inside the body means that they are always accessible for a user, as they cannot forget them. Recent input innovations NailO [7] and

iSkin [17] both claimed the benefit of being ‘always- available’, however both still had to be put onto the body. Insertables are the only truly always-on device available. In this era of ubiquitous computing there is a blurring of the line between ourselves and the technologies that we use [7]. When this technology is physically inside us, this line is blurrier than ever before. The use of insertables is completely hidden within bodies, with small scars that are not noticeable unless pointed out, following Mann’s [9] opinions that wearables need make indivudls appear ‘normal.’

Extending Human Function and Capabilities

Data input from insertable devices is possible, as shown in cybernetics research and neural interfaces. Notably, Warwick’s Cyborg 2.0 experiments where a 100- electrode array implanted into his median nerve was able to control an electronic wheelchair and an artificial hand [18]. Insertables can also be used to receive data in a hands-free manner without having to stop what one is doing. Leveraging insertable devices in this manner can be used to achieve truly hands-free, eyes- free information receipt for individuals with and without impairments. Receiving and interpreting data from insertables has the potential to give invisible improvements in sensorial parity or extension.

Using insertables for sensory improvement offers new modalities. This is similar to colorblind Neil Harbisson who uses an inserted antenna to ‘hear’ color [13]. He goes further than sensorial parity, by extending to also ‘hear’ colors outside of normal human capabilities, into the UV spectrum. Eyeborg, another emerging insertable, is being used in research to restore vision [8].

Biometrics From Within the Body

Existing wellbeing devices measure biometric data from being worn on the body. Insertable devices used for biometric data capture can address limitations of wearables fitness trackers that are often uncomfortable to wear during exercise or unable to be used in some situations, for example swimming [14]. Insertables offer interesting new possibilities for the quantified self (QS) movement.


Standards to Configure Insertables

Programming and configuring insertables could take two approaches: either adding the ID of the chip to existing systems or cloning information and access tokens to the chip. Each chip has its own unique identifier, which could be added to systems – this same identifier would be added to every system the individual is using. The second approach would add a unique identifier for each system to the chip, allowing the number to be matched to a record in individual databases behind systems. The latter avoids the issue of branding people with numbers, while the former may allow more uses of a single chip, removing the need for multiple insertables for multiple systems.

Insertable and Sensor Placements

The placement of the insertable on the body is an issue. We need to consider sensor placements that cater for a variety of insertion locations and individuals of different heights and with different body forms. For example, current door access systems are usually to side of the door, but if insertables are placed within the webbing of the hand, these could be placed within the door handle itself, allowing for a more natural interaction.

For more information on the workshop, schedule and organisers please visit

References available