Augmenting Your Nervous System. . . With iPhones

Connected implants merging humans with technology – an opportunity for business?

Speaking to a room of intrigued listeners at Disruption Summit Europe 2017, Scott Cohen stated that merging the human body with technology was completely logical. As a cyborg himself, he is one of the growing number of people who have integrated tech into their bodies. You can take a look at his talk here:

Although Scott may have successfully convinced his audience, there’s still a discernible level of scepticism about the adoption of technological implants. However, with the investment of influential companies, that could all change. This summer, Apple announced the creation of a device that can connect iPhones to the nervous system. Developed alongside aptly named implant manufacturer Cochlear, the Nucleus 7 is the first ‘Made for iPhone’ implant. But what’s the point?

The new hands free
Within the tech community, there’s a general consensus that the personal assistants living inside consumer electronics will, in time, move into our minds. The ongoing expansion of Augmented Reality supports this shift, indicating a huge market for products that work seamlessly with the real world. Immersive experiences are all well and good, but there’s a clear trend that favours augmentation. This is because it’s accessible – it can be used as part of everyday life. Apple are notoriously good at capitalising on accessibility, with sleek, minimalist designs to boot. Using a low energy Bluetooth format like the one used in wearable devices, the Nucleus 7 picks up Bluetooth signals and converts them into audio. This means that users can listen to music, shows, and of course phone calls. In many ways, Apple’s partnership with Cochlear makes perfect sense. The company has undergone a process of minimalisation with their existing product lines, including the removal of the wires connecting iPhones to earbuds. The next step, logically, is to remove (or at least rethink) the earpieces themselves. However, the Nucleus 7, and all cochlear implants in general, are reserved for those with severe hearing difficulties. Nonetheless, competitors are undoubtedly looking on with interest.

How disruptive are connected implants?
Prior to the Nucleus 7, those with hearing difficulties had to rely on extra devices like dongles to pick up Bluetooth signals. By offering a product with in-built connectivity, Cochlear and Apple have considerably improved their users’ quality of life. For people with good hearing ability, these implants aren’t particularly useful right now. . . But there’s certainly a market for making the human body function more effectively. Although the widespread use of audio streaming cochlear implants is a long way off, Apple and Cochlear’s collaboration indicates a change in the way that humans interact with technology. By connecting the nervous system to an iPhone, Apple has made smartphones part of the human body. It’s yet another example of breaking down the barriers that separate minds from machines and further normalising transhumanism. Futuristic philosophies aside, perhaps the most important consequence of introducing connected cochlear implants to the consumer market would be the integration of voice activated assistants within everyday life. As a result of this, the nature of search is changing. Consumers already listen to technology in the form of automated assistants and smart devices, but not constantly. If you’ve got a Nucleus 7 behind your ear, then you’re constantly connected to your iPhone. From a marketing perspective, this is a massive opportunity to send targeted messages to specific customers. But, of course, businesses need to be wary of consumer perspectives. the creation of a device that’s compatible with a single major corporation is bound to raise some eyebrows. While the level of convenience may be tempting, will people be willing to accept such a high level of involvement?

In developing an iPhone specific implant, Apple has made a bold statement. The company is moving into the implant market without their usual coyness, and although they aren’t the first, they have the resources to be the best. At the moment, though, the Nucleus 7 is purely a medical aid. Assuming that it will be available to the general public is perhaps jumping the gun. On top of this, there’s the issue of continuity. Even though wearables were touted as the next big money maker in consumer electronics, the smartphone reigns on. Either way, Apple’s new venture supports the growth of transhumanism, and the necessity of self disruption in continually changing markets.

Are conversational interfaces the future of interactions between humans and technology? Could devices like the Made for iPhone cochlear implant help to normalise transhumanism? Aside from marketing and data collection, how else could businesses take advantage of connected implants? Comment below with your thoughts.