Insertables Workshop – Date TBC

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, aims to explore the concept of insertables with fellow researchers, and discuss new ways in which these could be leveraged for future HCI research. From this workshop we aim to create a workshop report as a formal output. More broadly, we aim to develop a community of researchers interested in insertable devices for future HCI research.

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.

This workshop will provide an opportunity to gather attendees with an interest in insertables to move this emerging field forward. The goal of the workshop is to build a community and generate ideas regarding the use of insertables in HCI and propose future research directions.

A workshop report will be the main output of this workshop. It is also hoped that this workshop will create a community of HCI researches who wish to explore insertables, with the hope that these will eventually spawn new, specialized, conferences.

Workshop Themes

Insertables as New Input and Output devices

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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 and 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.