The chip in Murcheson’s eye

Paul Raven @ 03-11-2010

The Guardian reports on a successful cyborg vision implant procedure; bonus points for the industry-standard soundbite disclaimer:

“The visual results they were able to achieve were, up until now, thought to be in the realms of science fiction,” said MacLaren.

The guy must read some pretty strict Mundane SF if he thinks this represents the apogee of artificial vision acuity as portrayed in science fiction…

A man left blind by a devastating eye disease has been able to read letters, tell the time and identify a cup and saucer on a table after surgeons fitted him with an electronic chip to restore his vision.

Whoa.

Snark aside, it’s actually a pretty impressive step along the path to full-on artificial vision.

Miikka Terho, 46, began losing his eyesight as a teenager and was completely blind when he joined a pilot study to test the experimental eye chip at the University of Tübingen in Germany.

[…]

“I’ve been completely blind in the central area for about 10 years. I had no reading ability and no way of recognising anybody any more. When the chip was first turned on, I just saw flashes and flickering. It didn’t make any sense. But in a matter of hours, everything started to get clearer and clearer,” Terho said.

“When I looked at people for the first time, they looked like ghosts. I knew it was a person, but they were hazy. Then things got sharper.

“It was such a good feeling to be able to focus on something, to see something right there, and maybe even reach out and grab it. I wasn’t able to identify what was in front of me on the street, but I knew when something was there, so I didn’t walk into it,” he added.

Interesting to note it took a while for the guy to start making sense of the input; neuroplasticity in action, maybe? Or just long-dormant visual centres slowly reopening for business? Whichever it is, it’s nice to find a story where technology is demonstrably improving people’s lives.


Injectable arphid will let satellites track you world-wide (and maybe kill you)

Paul Raven @ 19-06-2009

injectable RFID implantCausing a bit of a stir over in Germany is a patent filed by a Saudi Arabian gentlemen for a form of subcutaneous RFID chip which would allow remote global tracking of the person into whom it was injected.

The patent application – entitled “Implantation of electronic chips in the human body for the purposes of determining its geographical location” – was filed on October 30, 2007, but was only published until last week, or 18 months after submission as required by German law, she said.

“In recent times the number of people sought by security forces has increased,” the Jeddah-based inventor wrote in his summary.

The tiny electronic device […] would be suited for tracking fugitives from justice, terrorists, illegal immigrants, criminals, political opponents, defectors, domestic help, and Saudi Arabians who don’t return home from pilgrimages.

Not too shocking on the surface, but it was one of the optional upgrades that caused the law firm representing the application to drop the case quickly:

After subcutaneous implantation, the chip would send out encrypted radio waves that would be tracked by satellites to confirm the person’s identity and whereabouts. An alternate model chip could reportedly release a poison into the carrier if he or she became a security risk.

Cute… thankfully the German patent system would probably have bounced the application on ethical grounds, but you don’t need a patent to make or use something like this.

And as science fictional as it blatantly is, it’s the political implausibility that stands out rather than the technological. Sadly, chipping people like we tag pets is likely to become quite the fashion in the more repressive nation-states of the world, but there’s certain to be a lively black market trade in removing and deactivating them too. [via Technovelgy; image by Nadya Peek]