“Flash in the Hand”

When regarding the human body, light bulbs were never thought to be synonymous with earlobes or other extremities. That changed in 2015. It began with a young woman named Sally Jennings. People said she could light up a room. After a minor surgical procedure, that phrase described an ability from beneath her skin. Precisely, the light shown from, yes, her earlobes. Days later, her fingertips also glowed. Soon, she was not alone. Sally was the first “Spokes Light” to display and sell the concept of Intra-dermal Lighting, or IDL. IDL, of course, is where minute but powerful LED lights are inserted beneath the skin. The lights turned on and off via an encoded signal emitted from a control pad. Phone apps soon followed.

IDLs were the most successful, and at night, the most obvious market to enter mainstream culture after the deregulation of the skin appliance industry. Buyers decided the strength of their IDL depending on their respective melanin concentration or desire to shine discreetly or brilliantly. At first only surgeons in sterile conditions performed IDL implantation. Surgical skill and magnification made sure the tiny LEDs were inserted at the right skin depth. Then, their light could shine through without revealing fat, bones, veins or other medical appliances. This was especially important after celebrities began using and endorsing IDLs.

As the craze grew and the market looked to expand, implantation standards were greatly relaxed. As in any dermal craft, from tattoos to piercings and then sub-skin diodes, skill or the lack of it could be painfully obvious. Bandages and gauze saw their own sales increases as badly installed IDLs were covered and/or hastily removed. Even with some bumps in the road, cheeks, ears and elsewhere, IDLs went from curio to craze. The world experienced a new but different style of enlightenment. People threw IDL parties. IDL nights were popular at taverns and nightclubs. Most events were sponsored by an IDL manufacturer. The first conglomerate subsidiary with its name micro-etched on IDLs was ‘Bio Lume.’ Other companies quickly followed. ‘Derma Bright’ was another major seller whose parent company was indemnified through several layers of incorporation. Some start-ups vied for a market share. The most successful of these was ‘Skin Shine.’ ‘Love Embers’ catered to a smaller, more intimate market.

Although IDLs pushed the physical limits of light emission versus bulb size, the most lasting breakthrough of the technology came from their power source. The micro-batteries would last for 100 years. Nevertheless, IDL makers offered extended warrantees for removal or recharge should the owner live passed the units’ failure date. Surprisingly, many users bought these warrantees. Perhaps they were expressing great optimism in the advancement of medical science, specifically gerontology. Other markets sought to exploit the IDL trend. There were artistic choices for their location and patterns. Fashion designers incorporated patterns to show off bright colors in fabric and the wearer’s skin. There were also impacts in the nude modeling industry, and other professions performed sans clothing.

The IDL makers tried to keep sales moving by spinning their market. “Neuro-interface” versions allegedly displayed the user’s mood. However, the lights’ colors were actually changed by pressure on the newer, smaller control keys now also beneath the skin. IDL tech needed its own makeover, as well. As one can anticipate, the phone apps and control codes were eventually broken. Hacking an IDL OS became its own black or perhaps sub-surface market. The act of hijacking someone’s IDLs was dubbed “strobing.” People found their IDL units switching on and/or off at the whims of mischievous friends, jealous coworkers, or just the drunk guy alone at the bar. A strobe attack could occur anywhere. Private IDL installations were revealed at inopportune times, such as first dates or job interviews. The worst cases of strobing could flicker until a professional reset. Sometimes the victims just paid a ransom. The more technology changes, it’s still subject to the most ancient scams. Strobing became a crime in some states. IDL firewalls became yet another branch of the tech security industry.

Despite strobing, the greatest threat to the IDL market is coming from another industry long associated with coloring skin. Cosmetics companies are set to deliver a completely new technology that will still cover a blemish, add color and highlight cheekbones, but now with actual light. ‘Chromophore’ and ‘Microshine’ products will make users able to alter skin patterns instantly, just as cuttlefish, squid or octopus. The products colors can be seen, smelled, and with the electrostatic lines, even felt. Unlike IDLs, this tech is easily removed in the shower with a special cleanser. Sold separately. True human bioluminescence will soon follow these new products. What will likely follow them are new treatments for skin cancer. Time will tell. Perhaps we should leave a light on for those questions. Preferably an extra-dermal one. Just keep your electric bill paid. The more things change….