Real-life Tony Stark has 4 computer chips implanted in his hands and does cool stuff with them

This type of body modification is known as “biohacking."

December 25, 2019, 7:25 PM

He's sort of like the Avengers' Tony Stark in real life. Ben Workman, a 29-year-old software engineer, is a tinkerer and has fused technology with his own body.

Workman has RFID and NFC computer chips implanted in his hands. He also has a Tesla key implanted into his right hand to control access to his Tesla vehicle and a magnet in his left hand -- which he says he mostly uses for Marvel villain Magneto-like entertainment purposes such as pulling paper clips and metal chains toward his hand’s magnetic field.

With the RFID and NFC chips, his hands replace some functionality of a smartphone.

For example, with a touch of his hand, he can copy someone’s contact info from their phone onto his inserted chip and then add it to his contact database. He can also configure Wi-Fi.

"If I have a router and I have its configuration, I can send that configuration to the chip. I can configure a Wi-Fi network automatically," Workman told ABC News.

As a software engineer, Workman is a programmer and can write code for the implants. "Anything with home automation I can program into my chips," he said. He uses his hands to control his home’s smart devices, like turning on and off the lights, and programmed his hand to replace his work badge he uses to swipe open the door at work.

He said that the implant process is the same type of microchipping done on cats and dogs. And, it is not painless.

"It hurts, for sure," he said. "It’s a burning pain, then goes away." The RFID, NFC and magnet were inserted just under his skin using a syringe and medical equipment. "These are large needles," he explained.

When he first set out to get the implants, he could not find a doctor, veterinarian or even a tattoo/piercing parlor that would agree to carry out the procedure.

He called on his cousin, a phlebotomist, to help him with his first two implants.

Once the chips are in, he said there is no discomfort. The magnet, however, is quite large, and he said that it causes "a little bit of a sensation when I move my hand."

Implanting the Tesla key was a more involved procedure.

"I had to send the valet key to a company called Dangerous Things. They take the key, dissolve it in acetate, reshape it and then put a medical polymer on it."

Getting the key to fit inside his hand required a 5 mm incision with a scalpel across the back of his hand to his knuckles.

The incision took time to heal but Workman said he has had no infections or complications from any of the implants.

PHOTO: Software engineer Ben Workman has four computer chips implanted in his hands and can perform several automated tasks.
Software engineer Ben Workman has four computer chips implanted in his hands and can perform several automated tasks.
Ben Workman

This type of body modification is known as "biohacking." As to why he would voluntarily undergo these procedures, Workman said it’s to push the boundaries of technology. He works as a cybersecurity researcher in Utah and is studying how effective such implants are in improving cybersecurity.

He said we are storing our most important information on our phones. "Steal the phone and you unlock the keys to the kingdom," Workman said.

"To have a phone stolen is a very big deal. Implanted technology is very hard to steal." Although, he said, there are devices that can clone data stored on implanted chips.

“But you would have to have the device very close [to the person]. You would have to be within 1-inch.”

But how realistic is it that people would undergo an uncomfortable procedure, just to keep their data more secure? And what about things like going through airport scanners or getting medical diagnostic tests such as MRIs or X-rays?

Workman said that his implants are not detected by TSA scanners because they don’t take X-rays. And an X-ray he said, would show the implants. If he needed an MRI, the magnet would have to be removed.

He also said there are people who are enthusiastic about tech implants and have undergone the procedures.

"People have been doing this about 23 years," he said. Tech implants "have taken off in Sweden and Europe."

"In America there is a hesitancy here to push weird boundaries," said Workman. He doesn’t think the procedure will become widely embraced unless "it becomes a more compact and painless procedure -- like ear piercing."

Disney is the parent company of Marvel Entertainment and ABC News.