Amal Graafstra is used to hacking things to work for him. He has two RFIDs implanted, one in each hand, that he uses to unlock doors, start his motorcycle and log into his computer. But Graafstra and his Seattle-based company, Dangerous Things, want to bring hackers more tools to bend the environment to their will.
The first tool is the Switcheroo, a tiny Bluetooth circuit board that can interact with microprocessor controls. That means it can perform tasks on thermostats, vehicle keyfobs and even appliances — things like altering temperature in a room or opening a car door with your phone. The Switcheroo is fully backed on Kickstarter — raising $26,000 as of Wednesday afternoon — and is expected to ship in August. There are about two weeks left in the campaign.
The company has seen success with its biohacking products, with Dangerous Things reporting over 700 percent sales growth in two years. The company’s xNT NFC-compatible implantable chip was initially funded through an IndieGogo campaign and it now offers a range of biohacking equipment and NFC devices.
“With the Switcheroo, we are able to open up those capabilities to people who may have been hesitant to have an implant under their skin, but who want the same abilities as the rest of us cyborgs,” Graafstra said in an email.
While a lot of the functions Dangerous Things outlines for the Switcheroo are available in current commercial products, they are locked behind proprietary software and inside expensive hardware units.
“Most of us already have things like cars and garage door openers that work just fine, and don’t want to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to buy a new device,” said Graafstra, who previously co-founded Atomic Mobile and led technology efforts at Everfind.
Consumers can open up their devices to attach Switcheroo’s four outputs to various parts of the microcontroller. It can be powered for up to a year on a coin-cell battery, or it can tap into the host device’s power supply for more critical tasks. Users interact with the chip through a smartphone app.
Switcheroo is designed as a standalone product without the need to implant anything in your body, but Graafstra can see it opening the door to biohacking down the road.
“I think the Switcheroo can enable the kind of seemingly ‘magical’ man-machine interactions that are common with biohacking implant technologies like our RFID and NFC chips,” he said.
In the future, Dangerous Things plans to add more NFC controllers to its offerings, expanding options for people who’ve embedded its xNT NFC tag under their skin.
“The only decent options for our customers at this point are to either build their own [NFC reader] with an Arduino and 3rd party reader device, which is expensive and not very efficient, or buy a commercial system that is extremely expensive and impractical,” Graafstra said.
An ecosystem of devices working with Bluetooth, RFID and NFC chips can lead to that “magical” man-machine interaction. Dangerous Things hopes to make them accessible to hackers, who can develop new interactions without breaking the bank.
Here’s a quick overview of Switcheroo: