IEEE Spectrum’s Singularity special

Posted by on June 4th, 2008

IEEE Spectrum has a special on the Singularity. Here’s some of the highlights:

Thanks to both Nora W. and George Rohac, Jr for writing in with this!

Wireless Vision Implant: Implantable Prosthesis Lets Patients Perceive Visual Images

Posted by on June 2nd, 2008

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About 30 million people around the world have grown legally blind due to retinal diseases. The EPI-RET project has sought for a technical solution for the past twelve years to help these patients. This work has resulted in a unique system – a fully implantable visual prosthesis.

For twelve years, experts from different disciplines in the fields of microelectronics, neurophysics, information engineering, computer science, materials science and medicine have been working to develop a visual prosthetic device for patients who have lost their sight through diseases of the retina.

In September 2007, their effort was rewarded. In a clinical study including six patients, the team was able to demonstrate not only that a completely implantable vision prosthesis is technically feasible and proven functioning, but also that it enables patients to perceive visual images.

“A milestone was reached when the prosthetic system finally operated wirelessly and remotely controlled,” explains Dr. Ingo Krisch. “A great deal of detailed work was necessary before the implant could be activated without any external cable connections.”

Link via

See also Bionic Eye Prototype

Instructables feature BodyMod Elf Ears

Posted by on May 23rd, 2008

As is pointed out:

Choose a body mod artist that is knowledgeable and experienced. Research the artist before you go, and try to get in touch with people the artist has worked on before, to get a sense on the quality of the artist’s work. Make damn sure everything is clean and sterile.

Do not be a guinea pig. If the artist tells you that they have something new they would like to try on you for a lower fee or whatever, politely say “No Thanks.” If this happens to you, I would recommend to go to someone else unless you have alot of trust in said individual. Still, reinforce that you want what you want and will pay what was agreed upon, using agreed upon procedures.

Make sure you also know what the laws are for what you are going to have done. Tongue Splitting is considered a Medical Procedure in many areas and your artist will need the credentials to do it. Just be knowledgeable in what you are about to have done.

Oh so very cool to see this moving out of sites like BME and on to Instructables! Can not wait to see what is on there next. DIY RFID Implants perhaps?!

thanks for the tip-off lizbt!

Uploaded Cat brains to control the bionic-eyes of the future

Posted by on May 23rd, 2008

From New Scientist Tech:

To try and develop a more sophisticated model, the team recorded the responses of 49 individual neurons in a part of a cat’s brain called the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN). The LGN receives and processes visual information from the retina, via the optic nerve, before sending it on to the cerebral cortex.

The data made it possible to build a software model of the LGN that can approximate how the neurons would respond to real scenes. The model was tested against scenes recorded from a “catcam” camera attached to a cat’s head.

“We chose the catcam because it was the most natural stimulus we could think of, the closest to what a cat would see when walking around,” Matteo Carandini told New Scientist. Because the catcam footage lacked elements moving independently from the rest of the scene, the researchers also used a scene from Disney’s animated film Tarzan.

The model’s predictions proved to be 80% accurate when shown artificial scenes, but this figure fell to 60% with the natural scenes or the Tarzan movie.

The ultimate goal of the research, still years distant, is to develop an implant that uses visual data to directly stimulate the LGN of blind people whose optic nerve or retina has degenerated from lack of use.

“For these people, a prosthesis in the eye doesn’t help,” Carandini explains. Only people who have recently become blind can benefit from such implants – currently being tested in humans – that stimulate the retina or optic nerve,.

Work on monkeys last year showed it is possible to stimulate the LGN using electrodes to alter their vision, something previously thought impossible. Software models like that developed by Carandini and colleagues would be vital for an implant to stimulate the right neurons to create a mental impression of vision.

Start your “what if I see a mouse” or “will I want to fight dogs now” jokes… now!

See Also:

Researchers develop robotic brain-computer interface

Posted by on May 22nd, 2008

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Brain-computer interfaces have been kicking around for a few years now, but they’re relatively slow and unwieldy, which kind of puts a damper on world-domination plans — the guy with the keyboard would probably be well into the missile-launch sequence by the time you’ve strapped on your dork-helmet. That might be slowly changing, though, as Caltech researchers are working on a robotic brain-computer interface, which can currently be implanted directly into non-human primate brains and move itself around to optimize readings. Although the MEMS-based motor system that actually moves the electrodes is still being developed, the software to do the job is ready to go, and the whole system being presented this week at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Pasadena.

Link via

Excuse me, my jaw fell off. So, it’s not all ready, just yet. Only a matter of time.

Depression Devices

Posted by on May 20th, 2008

Altering brain chemistry is a hobby for many, but progress on brain-stimulation devices for treating depression has not yet been a successful venture. For those who don’t respond to antidepressant drugs, experiments with electronic implants and electromagnets have some way to go – IEEE Spectrum has a downbeat round-up of the latest experiments underway this year. In total, nine different technologies are now under investigation in at least 27 human trials.

Photo: St Jude Medical

The researchers interviewed seem in desperate need of treatment themselves:

Helen Mayberg, a neurologist at Emory University who invented the deep-brain stimulation technique that St. Jude is now testing, wonders if the companies’ troubles will haunt the next round of research. “You have to ask, where did they go wrong?” she says. “We may look back in 10, 15 years and say, we did what to the brain? But it’s a definite paradigm shift.”

Personally, the only thing that works for me is a cup of brown joy…

Shine on you crazy grinder

Posted by on May 20th, 2008

Glowsticks become sad pretty rapidly when after 15 minutes on the hardcore dancefloor they turn a murky yellow. But that’s about to change, with GlowPaint’s newest product – a non-toxic inexpensive light source that they claim lasts for 15 years.

The Litrospheres are not effected by heat or cold, and are 5,000-pound crush resistant. They can be injection molded or added to paint. The fill rate of Litroenergy micro particles in plastic injection molding material or paint is about 20%. The constant light gives off no U.V. rays, and can be designed to emit almost any color of light desired.

As TeaDream says, “this stuff needs to be tested for biocompatibility and safety then made into tattoo ink immediately. Seriously, give this all of year – if even – before someone has a glowing green racing stripe down the side of their junk.” Thanks for the heads up T!

via Ecoble

Victory! Oscar Pistorius allowed to compete in the Olympics!

Posted by on May 17th, 2008

From ScienceDaily:

Based on Rice and MIT findings, the Court of Arbitration for Sports in Lausanne, Switzerland, has ruled that Pistorius is eligible to participate in International Association of Athletics Federations sanctioned competitions. If he qualifies for the 2008 Beijing games, Pistorius would be the first disabled athlete ever to run against able-bodied athletes in an Olympic event.

The scientific team was asked to evaluate the IAAF’s initial claim that the Cheetah Flex-Foot prostheses (J-shaped, high-performance prostheses used for running) worn by Pistorius give him an advantage over able-bodied runners. The team concluded that the scientific evidence put forth by the IAAF investigation to ban Pistorius was fundamentally flawed. “While an athlete’s performance in sprints of very short duration is determined almost entirely by mechanical factors, in races of longer duration, such as the 400m, performance depends on both mechanical and metabolic factors,” said Herr, a bilateral amputee who heads the MIT Media Lab’s Biomechatronics research group.

Based on this performance link, the scientists refuted the IAAF findings on two major points: the speed-duration relationship and rates of metabolic energy expenditure.

Specifically, the scientists concluded that:

  • Pistorius’ ability to maintain speed over the course of longer sprints–his speed-duration relationship–is essentially identical to that of able-bodied runners, indicating that he fatigues in the same manner as able-bodied sprinters.
  • Pistorius’ rates of metabolic energy expenditure do not differ from elite non-amputee runners. In particular, he has nearly the same running economy, or rate of oxygen consumption at submaximal speeds, and a similar maximal rate of oxygen consumption as elite non-amputee runners.

“Based on the data collected at Rice, the blades do not confer an enhanced ability to hold speed over a 400m race,” Weyand said. “Nor does our research support the IAAF’s claims of how the blades provide some sort of mechanical advantage for sprinting.”

“The study commissioned by the IAAF claimed that Pistorius has a 25 percent energetic advantage at 400m race speeds. That claim is specious because anaerobic energy supply cannot be quantified,” Kram said.

The Olympics just got interesting. Can not wait to watch him compete!

See Also:

Socket – a low-fi gay SF grinder erotic thriller

Posted by on May 12th, 2008

“More low-fi SF!”, I hear you ask. Well, how about something with a little queer twist.

Presenting Socket:

After being struck by lighting Dr. Bill Matthews receives extra special care from a mysterious sexy hospital intern Craig. Having survived the same natural accident Craig introduces his new recruit to an underground group that uses electricity to reach ecstasy. Soon the two develop an insatiable appetite for wall sockets and each other but it s not enough for Bill. Using his gifted talents as a surgeon this doctor will stop at nothing to find the ultimate charge.

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Yes, I will trade production values for possibly interesting ideas. Thanks.

Speaking of which, where’s my copy of Electric Dragon 80,000V?!

via io9

Aussie teams debut the most promising Bionic Eye research yet

Posted by on May 11th, 2008

Better post these while I can, because it looks like in the near future a bionic-eye will be banal. Here’s your latest piece of our science-fictional present:

Professor Minas Coroneo from Sydney’s Prince of Wales Hospital says … they will implant a permanent bionic eye into a patient in the next few weeks.

Early trials have shown the device can help people who are completely blind to see large objects.

Now watch the National Geographic story on the team.

Impressed? Well, that’s just for starters! Another team is working for a full solution:

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See Also:

Scarab Body Arts

Posted by on April 28th, 2008

Scarab Body Arts, of Syracuse, NY have some great designs up on their website:

These are all (obviously) scarifications, but they also do brandings.  There is some truly awesome work – check the one out below by John Joyce (thru his BME pages).  There’s an interview with him on BMEzine here.

Regenerative Medicine gets some serious US Military $$$’s

Posted by on April 27th, 2008

Beggars will soon have to find a new line to use on their marks, if the US Defense Department succeeds in it’s latest campaign; taking Regenerative Medicine off the drawing board and into the battle zone.

You get zero guesses as to what’s driving this:

Just more than 900 U.S. servicemembers have undergone amputations of some kind due to injuries suffered in wartime service in Afghanistan or Iraq, Casscells said. Other troops have been badly burned or suffered spinal cord injuries or significant vision loss.

Their stated goal: to “harness stem cell research and technology” to “reconstruct new skin, muscles and tendons, and even ears, noses and fingers”. Sweet!

How serious are they? They’ve ponied up “$250 million for the initial five-year period.”

Nice one. Can’t wait to see this kind of technology hitting the streets; it sounds like just the thing someone like Steve Haworth would use to perform some intricate body modifications!

See Also:

via /.

NTT Firmo transmits data through skin

Posted by on April 24th, 2008

NTT has begun selling a device that transmits data across the surface of the human body and lets users communicate with electronic devices simply by touching them, the company announced on April 23.

The new product, called “Firmo,” consists of a card-sized transmitter carried in the user’s pocket. The card converts stored data into a weak AC electric field that extends across the body, and when the user touches a device or object embedded with a compatible receiver, the electric field is converted back into a data signal that can be read by the device. For now, Firmo transfers data at 230kbps, but NTT is reportedly working on a low-cost 10Mbps version that can handle audio/video data transfers.

Firmo is based on NTT’s RedTacton human area network (HAN) technology, which is designed to allow convenient human-machine data exchange through natural physical contact — even through clothing, gloves and shoes.

NTT initially hopes this human area network technology will appeal to organizations looking to boost convenience and security in the office. Obvious applications include secure entrances and keyless cabinets that recognize employees when they touch the door handle (thus bypassing the need for card-swipers and keys), or secure printers that operate only when you touch them.

Link via

Iron Man here today?

Posted by on April 18th, 2008
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(I see Space Marines, yes I do.)

The Sarcos XOS exoskeleton is an impressive device.

However, Japan’s HAL exoskeleton is not only an impressive device, but will soon go into production for sale. Cyberdyne Inc will produce 500 HAL suits each year, starting in October of 2008.

The HAL (Hybrid Assistive Limb) robot suit has already been used to perform humanitarian missions (see HAL-5 Exoskeleton To Carry Mountain Climber).

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Let’s line these contenders up, and see how they look next to the Iron Man movie version.

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Coat of armour creates hardy ‘super-cells’

Posted by on April 17th, 2008

Giving cells a tough mineral coat can make them much more robust, Chinese researchers say. The team has developed such egg-shell-like coats for yeast cells that let them survive longer in harsh environments and can even make them magnetic.This has the potential to get useful bacteria into areas previously out of bounds – for example, to precisely deliver medical treatments for diseases such as cancer, say the researchers.

Researchers have already shown they can steer magnetic objects through the body and target cancer drugs using magnets. Doing that with armoured cells could be a new way to precisely deliver treatments, while protecting them from harsh environments. The coat could also be designed to include proteins that have the body transport it to the desired location.

Link via

The transgender birth hits pop culture.

Posted by on April 11th, 2008

South Park have once again shown how quickly the can whip up a episode when something hits the zeitgeist that they want to comment on. The most recent episode takes as it’s starting point the recent story about the transgender giving birth, as shown in this clip.

The episode also features a cameo from this darling of 1997:

It’s great to see such issues of Identity, coupled with the growing of replacement body parts, being addressed so well in pop culture.

Especially when compared to the coverage he got on Oprah:

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It’s as tabloid as you might expect; especially the way she keeps over-pronouncing transgender, like there’s a stigma to it.

Of course the rumors of Oprah’s skin bleaching raises a whole other set of issues; and if true she should really STFU with the aspersions she’s casting, whilst trying to appear vaguely balanced.

This is why I continue to be a massive South Park fan, it’s so great what you can say when people think you’re joking; but man, hasn’t this season so far been a dark one!

Researchers develop human prosthesis for balance, unfortunately it’s not a tail

Posted by on April 10th, 2008

There’s hope for those of us suffering from chronic imbalance as a result of staring too long at periodic tables and 20-sided dice. It’s an implant developed by neuroscientists at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. The implant looks to off-set balance irregularities in the human vestibular system caused by trauma or disease affecting the gyroscopic function of the inner ear. A microprocessor converts signals received from a motion sensor worn on the head into electrical impulses. These are then sent to an electrode implanted into the inner ear. The first test will begin next week on a rhesus monkey. A move which evokes cries of “unfair” from us — unlike nerds, monkeys already have excellent balance.

Link via

Otto Octavius: Nothing will stand in our way! NOTHING!

Posted by on April 6th, 2008

Er, sorry, got a bit carried away there.  But I get this weird feeling looking at the robot snake developed by the Carnegie Mellon University, which can wiggle its way inside a body and perform cardiac ablations:

It’s controlled by a joystick at the moment sure, but how long before someone tries to graft one (or four) on to their spinal column, huh?

Calming down now, Technology Review reports how

It has 102 degrees of freedom, three of which can be activated at once. This allows it to enter through a single point in the chest and wrap around the heart until it reaches the right spot to, say, remove problematic tissue.

This pic shows the CardioArm moving around inside the membrane encasing a pig’s heart (successful cardiovascular surgeries has been performed on nine pigs and two human cadavers, with live human trials due to start later in the year).  Ok.  Feeling better now.  But hang on, what else do the researchers say?

The team hopes to start testing the CardioArm in natural-orifice surgery–a technique where tissues are removed through existing openings in the body, such as the mouth, to avoid postoperative pain and reduce recovery time… and aim to have surgeons use CardioArms in unison, like “an octopus, with two or three tentacles” all entering through one incision and then branching out.

Watch out, webhead.

I Am Legion

Posted by on April 2nd, 2008

Slashdot has pointed up the latest caper of the German Chaos Computer Club – they reproduced a plastic foil with the fingerprint of German Secretary of the Interior Wolfgang Schäuble in 4,000 copies of their magazine Die Datenschleuder — ready to glue to someone else’s finger to provide a false biometric reading. The CCC has a page on their site detailing how to make such a fake fingerprint.

This is an amazing simple way to mainpulate biometrics – the step by step guide was produced in 2004.

Imagine a movement of Anonymous individuals loose in a city all with the fingerprints of a high ranking official…

Welcome to the Future.

Bluetooth Microphone for Your Tooth

Posted by on April 1st, 2008

An extremely small microphone is packaged with solar panel and battery to provide the most portable unit to date. The durable composite resin filling is designed to fit in a hole 2.2mm in diameter and 1.7 mm deep and will pick up sound and vibrations from your mouth to produce incredibly clear sound.

The Bluetooth Dental Insert Microphone will soon be available over at Chinavision, who also points out that “All dental work should be performed by a qualified dentist, Chinavasion does not take responsibility for injury resulting from the installation of this product”.