Mind over matter – the future of remote control

Paul Raven @ 09-07-2008

Cyborg headControlling mechanical and electronic devices with nothing but the power of your own thoughts is a science fiction trope almost as old as the genre itself, and like many other tropes it’s edging towards plausibility at quite a speed. [image by mize2oo5]

Futurismic has mentioned braincomputer interfaces a few times before, and the essential framework of the technology is fairly well established. However, the high costs involved mean that beyond research and rehabilitation there aren’t many truly practical applications right now.

But that’s not stopping the researchers thinking big, as in this Popular Mechanics article:

“… the research is showing that the brain can act independently of the body. One day, you could be sitting in an office and controlling a device from across the room—or in another building. And it’s not just flicking a switch. It could be a nanotool that’s moving through a tiny environment, and you can control it and see what it’s seeing.”

So, great news for the prospect of telecommuting – almost all manufacturing jobs could be done from the comfort of your armchair, for example. The flipside being, of course, that it would make offshore outsourcing an even more viable option than it is now. [story via SlashDot]


Open-source self-replicating machine, er, self-replicates

Paul Raven @ 04-06-2008

Self-replicating machines, as a concept, have been around since mathematician John von Neumann thought them up. But there has never been a working non-organic machine that has been able to construct a fully-functional working clone of itself … until now. [story via pretty much everywhere; image from the RepRap homepage]

RepRap achieved self-replication at 14:00 hours UTC on 29 May 2008 at Bath University in the UK.”

RepRap - self-replicating machine

I’ve linked to the RepRap Project before when I first started blogging here at Futurismic, and so I’m immensely pleased to see they’ve reached this major milestone. And the head-twistingly awesome bit about it is that, as RepRap is 100% open-source, you can just download a parts list and make your own, then set it to make copies of itself to give to your friends.

The machine that [self-replicated] – RepRap Version 1.0 “Darwin” – can be built now – see the Make RepRap Darwin link, and for ways to get the bits and pieces you need, see the Obtaining Parts link.”

OK, so it looks clunky, and it lacks the conceptual elegance of Drexler’s engines of creation, but think of it as a proof of concept. Imagine that RepRap could build a functional replica of itself at half the size, and that then the replica could replicate to half the size again, and so on. Unless you’re worried about the largely improbable “grey goo” scenario, it’s possible that we’ll look back on RepRap as the dawn of a new age for the means of production …

… or the root cause of global unemployment, maybe. 😉