An Australian artist and Curtain University professor is growing a functional human ear on his arm, with the intention that the organ will eventually be wired to pick up the various sounds of his life and broadcast them over the Internet to a global audience.
The man’s name is Stelarc, and according to Huffington Post UK, he said that the odd project has been two decades in the making. The ear has been inserted underneath the skin of Stelarc’s forearm, and the next step is to have a miniature, WiFi-connected microphone inserted.
“This ear is not for me, I’ve got two good ears to hear with. This ear is a remote listening device for people in other places,” the professor told ABC News Australia. “They’ll be able to follow a conversation or hear the sounds of a concert, wherever I am, wherever you are.”
“People will be able to track, through a GPS as well, where the ear is,” he added. “There won’t be an on-off switch. If I’m not in a Wi-Fi hotspot or I switch off my home modem, then perhaps I’ll be offline, but the idea actually is to try to keep the ear online all the time.”
Project has been in the works since 1996
Stelarc, who leads a team at the Alternate Anatomies Laboratory at Curtin University, explained that the idea first came to him in 1996, but that it took a considerable amount of time to locate a medical team willing to perform the procedures necessary to make the project a reality.
The Huffington Post explained that doctors inserted a bio-polymer scaffold underneath his skin, and less than six months later, blood vessels and tissue began to form around it. The next step is to make it lift off the arm a little more so that it looks more three-dimensional, and to take some of Stelarc’s stem cells to form an grow an ear lobe.
After that, it will be time to implant the microphone. The doctors had reportedly already made one previous attempt at doing so, but the device had to be removed from the third ear because of infection. If and when it is successfully installed, audio from his life will be broadcast online.
“People’s reactions range from bemusement to bewilderment to curiosity, but you don’t really expect people to understand the art component of all of this,” the artist told ABC News Australia. “Increasingly now, people are becoming internet portals of experience… imagine if I could hear with the ears of someone in New York… [and] see with the eyes of someone in London.”
(Image credit: Stelarc)