Tag Archives: cyborg

Bionic eye breakthrough

eye_closeUS company Second Sight have developed a bionic eye system that allows a man who has been blind for 30 years to see flashes of light:

He says he can now follow white lines on the road, and even sort socks, using the bionic eye, known as Argus II. It uses a camera and video processor mounted on sunglasses to send captured images wirelessly to a tiny receiver on the outside of the eye.

The Argus II is designed to help sufferers of retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye condition.

[article form the BBC][image from Mazintosh – Fotogranada on flickr]

Imagining the Adaptive City

In his writings on ‘cyborg urbanisation‘, Prof. Matthew Gandy (UCL) has compared the relationship between the city and its inhabitants with the cyborg – an archetype familiar to science fiction. For Gandy, the cyborg can help us understand the various networks that enable bodies to function in the modern city.

So, when Dan Hill (City of Sound) posted a vision of something he described as the Adaptive City, I was thinking of cyborgs … triggering a whole different set of neural pathways;

Facilitated by networks of sensors, the data emerging from the new [urban] nervous system appears limitless: near-imperceptible variations in air quality and water quality, innumerable patterns in public and private traffic, results of restaurant inspections, voting patterns in public referenda, triggers of motion sensors, the output of heating ventilation and air conditioning systems, patterns of water usage, levels of waste recycled, genres of books returned at local libraries, location of bicycles in the city’s bike-sharing network, fluctuations in retail stock controls systems, engine data from cars and aeroplanes, collective listening habits of music fans, presence of mobile phones in vehicles enabling floating car data, digital photos and videos locked to spatial co-ordinates, live feeds from CCTV cameras, quantities of solar power generated and used by networks of lamp-posts, structural engineering data from the building information models of newly constructed architecture, complex groupings of friends perceptible in social software multiplied by location-based services, and so on. Myriad flows of data move in and around the built fabric. As many or most objects in the city become potential nodes in a wider network … this shimmering informational field provides a view of the entire city.

But while science fictional tropes see the cyborg as defined either in terms of internal implants or some kind of powered exoskeleton (both dependent on the processes and contours of the individual body), Hill’s ‘Adaptive City’ externalises the cybernetic, projecting it outwards … into the environment; the physical landscape of which the organic body is but one among many. Perhaps the ‘Adaptive City’ is a decentralised cyborg … using feedback loops to harness the power of the collective, and watching its effects as …

[t]he invisible becomes visible … [and] the impact of people on their urban environment can be understood in real-time. Citizens turn off taps earlier, watching their water use patterns improve immediately. Buildings can share resources across differing peaks in their energy and resource loading. Road systems can funnel traffic via speed limits and traffic signals in order to route around congestion. Citizens take public transport rather than private where possible, as the real-time road pricing makes the true cost of private car usage quite evident. The presence of mates in a bar nearby alerts others to their proximity, irrespective of traditional spatial boundaries. Citizens can not only explore proposed designs for their environment, but now have a shared platform for proposing their own. They can plug in their own data sources, effectively hacking the model by augmenting or processing the feeds they’re concerned with.

(‘The Adaptive City’ has a companion piece, ‘The street as platform’ – also at City of Sound … image by taiyofj)

Prosthetic “fluidhand” raises the bar

Fluidhand - prosthesis prototypeVia Warren Ellis’s grinders, I present to you: the Fluidhand!

The flexible drives are located directly in the movable finger joints and operate on the biological principle of the spider leg – to flex the joints, elastic chambers are pumped up by miniature hydraulics. In this way, index finger, middle finger and thumb can be moved independently. The prosthetic hand gives the stump feedback, enabling the amputee to sense the strength of the grip.”

Prosthetics and exoskeletal tech are really making strides (arf!) at the moment. I don’t think it’s science fictional to suggest that we’ll be seeing prosthetic limbs that equal the functionality of the organic originals within a decade. [image borrowed from linked Physorg article]

But there’ll still be a stigma attached to having one, because of the aesthetic issues; it’ll be longer than a decade before there’s a false limb that would pass for a real one.

Maybe they’d become a badge of pride in certain industries or regions – among veterans of ideological conflicts, perhaps? And what about the possibility of elective prosthetics – people choosing to replace limbs that had nothing wrong with them?

Teeth – don’t repair, regrow

neon tooth I feel sure we linked a story similar to this some time ago, but as a person with a deep and abiding mistrust of dentists (which has more to do with unnecessary work and overcharging than discomfort, to be fair), the news that scientists believe they are close to discovering a way to “remineralize” decayed teeth as an alternative to drillin’ and fillin’ is music to my ears. [image by Ian Hsu]

That having been said, I’d be willing to deal with drilling if it meant I could get a Bluetooth (arf!) microphone installed in my grill. Bam! [via grinding.be]

DARPA developing cyborg insects

Photo Credit: Mike Libby, Insect Lab

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is funding research that would embed insects with microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) that would then in turn allow them to be controlled remotely. The program, dubbed “Hybrid-Insect MEMS” or ‘”HI-MEMS,” is funding three research groups at the University of Michigan, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Boyce Thompson Institute.

The final milestone [of the project] will be flying a cyborg insect to within five meters of a specific target located some one hundred meters away using remote control or a global positioning system (GPS). If HI-MEMS passes this test successfully, then DARPA will probably begin breeding in earnest. Insect swarms with various sorts of different embedded MEMS sensors–video cameras, audio microphones, chemical sniffers and more–could then penetrate enemy territory in swarms to perform reconnaissance missions impossible or too dangerous for soldiers.