A Perilous Encounter with the I-Bod

Scott Simon gets a laugh and a little love out of the new i-Bod. The i-Bod is said to help users regulate major body functions: heart, respiration, even cholesterol. But it seems foolish to test it with rat poison.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

The Bio 2006 Biotechnology Show opens in Chicago next week and one new invention in particular is already arousing fascination and controversy: the i-Bod, a small plastic device about the size and weight of a music player. It can adjust most of the major functions of our bodies: heart, respiration, even cholesterol. It is not made by Apple. It was invented and developed by a brother and sister from Wichita Falls, Kansas, Drs. Monica and Wen Chang(ph).

Unidentified Woman: Hello (Spanish, German and Japanese spoken) i-Bod International.

SIMON: They keep their headquarters behind a non-descript door in an unremarkable downtown office building. Dr. Monica Chang is the company's CEO.

Dr. MONICA CHANG (CEO, i-Bod International): Here in the news business, what's the number one concern that people have these days?

SIMON: Erasing those fine lines and wrinkles.

Dr. M. CHANG: Control, Scott. This is what the i-Bod offers. Control over our basic bodily functions, with just a click, click, click of the track wheel.

SIMON: Wen Chang is the company's chief scientist. He explains that the i-Bod connects to the electrical impulses, the neurons that flash through our bodies.

Dr. WEN CHANG (Chief Scientist, i-Bod International): And send them back so that we aren't just measuring respiration or blood pressure or blood sugar levels, but managing them.

Dr. M. CHANG: So we thought, why not come up with something that will let people control their body as easily as they decide if they're going to listen to like Coldplay, DJ Lee, or in your case, Judy Garland?

SIMON: To demonstrate, the Drs. Chang ask how would you like to run a four minute mile without leaving your seat? They place the i-Bod over the median cubital vein in my left arm.

Dr. W. CHANG: Now we can see that your heartbeat and respiration are normal, about 70 beats per minute.

Dr. M. CHANG: The race begins.

Dr. W. CHANG: Okay. We're stroking the track wheel to raise your respiration rate, 75, 80, 85. Do you feel that?

SIMON: Yes, I sure can!

My heart began to heave, blood began to ring in my ears, as the i-Bod raised my respiration to the rate of a world-class athlete running a four-minute mile.

(Soundbite of coughing)

Dr. W. CHANG: Go, Scott! You can do it!

Dr. M. CHANG: Go, Scott!

Dr. W. CHANG: Dig! Dig!

Dr. M. CHANG: Go, Scott!

Dr. W. CHANG: A hundred and fifty beats a minute, 352, 353...

Dr. M. CHANG: All right!

Dr. W. CHANG: 359.5. And you have broken the four minute mile!

Dr. M. CHANG: All right!

(Soundbite of heavy breathing)

Dr. M. CHANG: And your tie isn't even askew.

Dr. W. CHANG: Though you shouldn't mix the stripes like that.

SIMON: After they dialed down the respiration, we asked delicately if it's possible for one i-Bod to interact with another.

Dr. W. CHANG: You mean, hook up with somebody else's i-Bod? Don't be embarrassed, we're doctors.

SIMON: So the doctors connected my i-Bod to another unidentified i-Bod. Several minutes of satisfying sensations followed. I told the Chings I have done a lot of stories over the years, and I want you to know this one is really special.

Dr. W. CHANG: Thanks, Scott. That means a lot.

SIMON: Out of curiosity, whose i-Bod did my i-Bod, you know, interact with?

Dr. M. CHANG: When you entered our office did you see Mr. Gupta in accounting?

SIMON: Who Mr. Gupta?

Dr. W. CHANG: What did you expect, Scott. Angelina Jolie?

Dr. M. CHANG: We're saving that for Good Morning America.

SIMON: The idea of manipulating all of our bodily functions from a plastic pack that can be tucked into a shirt pocket has predictably sparked criticism. Dr. Pablo O'Connor of the Man of God Theological Seminary calls the i-Bod the ultimate enabler.

Dr. PABLO O'CONNOR (Man of God Theological Seminary): It's biology without responsibility. Will we feel that we can gorge ourselves without regret? Indulge ourselves without guilt? I mean, imbibe without consequence? I mean, as Isaiah might have asked, am I for myself alone, or am I for my i-Bod?

SIMON: But Dr. Monica Ching says she sees no difference between the i-Bod and wearing glasses to correct vision, or taking statins to lower cholesterol. She believes that human beings know that they are still vulnerable and mortal.

Dr. M. CHANG: You can get hit by a car. You can slip on a banana peel. You can get shot by the Vice President!

SIMON: For their final demonstration, the Drs. Chang put a piece of chocolate chip cheesecake on a plate.

Dr. W. CHANG: And what's this?

SIMON: Well, the tin says that that's rat poison.

Dr. W. CHANG: It is rat poison, Scott. And as you can see, we are sprinkling this on top of the cheesecake.

SIMON: Why are we doing that?

Dr. M. CHANG: Because you're going to eat this piece of cheesecake.

SIMON: I was afraid of that.

Dr. M. CHANG: Now, normally rat poison is an anti-coagulant.

SIMON: Uh-huh.

Dr. M. CHANG: It caused internal hemorrhaging. But before that can happen to you, Scott, we're going to dial down all the deleterious effects with the i-Bod.

SIMON: Hmm. Well, the crunch, that's the rat poison, isn't' it.

Dr. M. CHANG: Mm-hmm.

SIMON: That's sort of nice, actually.

Dr. M. CHANG: Under ordinary circumstances, right about now you'd start having some problems.

SIMON: Mm-hmm.

Dr. M. CHANG: Oh.

(Soundbite of banging)

Dr. M. CHANG: Wait a minute.

Dr. W. CHANG: What's wrong?

Dr. M. CHANG: Something's wrong.

SIMON: Is something going on? What's happening?

Dr. M. CHANG: I think it's the battery.

Dr. W. CHANG: Recharging takes a couple of hours.

SIMON: A couple of hours!

(Soundbite of Bleep)

SIMON: What's going on?

Dr. M. CHANG: Oh, we expect to have our Mark Four Series with an extended life battery in production by fall. But, but until then...

(Soundbite of coughing)

Dr. W. CHANG: Maybe we can hook him up to a toaster oven or something.

(Soundbite of coughing)

(Soundbite of song Your Body)

Mr. TOM NOVY (D.J.): (Singing) I don't want nobody. I don't want nobody, baby, but you. There's something 'bout your body got me thinking of nobody but you. I don't want nobody. Nobody. I don't want nobody baby but you. There's something 'bout your body that's got me thinking of nobody but

(Soundbite of coughing)

SIMON: D.J. Tom Novy.

(Soundbite of coughing)

SIMON: And you're listening to WEEKEND EDITION...

(Soundbite of coughing)

SIMON: ...from NPR News.

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