In a dorm room at the University of South Carolina this month, 18-year-old Evan Bryer plunged a syringe preloaded with a microchip into the skin between his index finger and thumb.
Now he can open doors with a wave of his hand.
The USC first-year implanted four microchips into both his hands to replace his student card with access to university buildings, save passwords and add new contacts to his phone. Bryer even glows in the presence of vending machines and cellphones.
“It didn’t hurt any more than giving blood,” he told McClatchy news group Tuesday.
In his left hand, the chip has his student ID code and phone contacts. His right hand is his “password manager.”
Bryer later added an LED microchip to each hand that lights up when it’s in range of a reader, whether it’s a cellphone, vending machine or university door. Because people’s phones have readers in different locations, Bryer said he needs the LEDs to help guide his hand.
“It also looks cool,” he said.
The computer science major from Michigan clarified they can’t be used to track him, given that microchips don’t have a battery or GPS. In fact, he said, they’re only “on” when receiving power from phone or door readers.
They’re also only about 1 to 3 mm wide and 12 to 15 mm long — similar in shape to a grain of rice.
Bryer said he saw the phenomenon — often referred to as biohacking — on Reddit, where people posted about microchips that unlock doors and start cars.
“You can find anything there,” he said.
He said his parents had no idea he was experimenting with biohacking. But when the student newspaper approached him about an interview, Bryer thought it might be time to tell them.
“They were surprised that this was a thing that people could do,” he said. “But they weren’t that surprised that I did it because that’s just how they see me.”
Bryer ordered the microchips — which came with antiseptic wipes and a sterile drape — from Dangerous Things, a Seattle-based company that sells implants, accessories and bundle packages to biohackers.
He said it only cost him about $150 — $100 for the first two chips, $30 for one of the LEDs (the other was free, he said) and $20 for a tool that copies his student ID code to the chip.
“Not too pricey, especially for the fact that they will essentially work forever,” he said.
The chips function for decades unless they accidentally get broken. Given that his aren’t near any bones, Bryer said they’d be pretty difficult to break.
He also said new codes for key cards or home locks can be copied onto the microchips to replace his student ID when it’s no longer useful.
As microchip technology evolves, he said contactless payment might be next.
“I could pay with my hand at a vending machine,” he quipped.