From Sciam (via Boing Boing), comes news of an ocular implant designed to act as a telephoto system and correct macular regeneration. It doesn’t seem like a huge leap from this little series of lenses implanted in the pupil, to the same sort of thing being used for cosmetic enhancement purposes.
As an alternative to a flexible wearable display, how about a subdermal display? Or else one painted onto the skin? OhmyNews.com, a source for some occasionally startling tech news, reports that this may be in our future.
There was only a brief mention of my favourite option (video), but more details on another technique which would paint three thin layers onto the skin: two conductive matrices aligned orthogonally to each other, with a special ink solution between the two. It’s a pretty cool read, and lends hope to those of us who hope to have digital clocks glowing through our skin before too long.
Here’s the latest advance in tactile sensors. From the SciAm article:
The device, a so-called electroluminescent thin film, glows in response to applied pressure. The result is a finely detailed image of the texture of any object that touches the film. [...] Because the sensor produces data in the form of an optical image, the data can be quickly and easily collected by simply photographing the image. This represents a major step forward in the ease and efficiency of collecting information from tactile sensors. Quick data collection is critical to performing real-time tasks, for example grasping a tool with a robotic arm. If the tool starts to slip, the image produced by the electroluminescent film immediately shows the tool’s motion, and the robot’s grip can then be adjusted to prevent it from falling.
Of course, this technology could be applied to either robots or cyborgs, although the latter would involve translating the image received into immpulses the human brain would understand.
A common impediment to effective powered implantation is the issue of powering it. While power requirements may be made very low, and small batteries made very efficient, that may not be good enough for a posthuman intending to live with a prosthetic potentially for the next couple of hundred years. And a battery is one more element that can break down, not to mention that they are usually filled with toxic substances. So what is more elegant than a fuel cell that draws power from one’s own blood? As IOL reports, some Japanese researchers have come up with a little device that generates power from the glucose in blood, using only substances already naturally occurring in the body to catalyze the reaction.
A company called the Shadow Robot Company has been developing a robotic hand that pushes the boundaries of what is currently available. It has all sorts of degrees of freedom, and force-feedback allows it to grip stuff without crushing it. Something like this will become the standard for prosthetics in a few years, and realistic humanoid robots will probably trace their origins back to this hand.
Researchers in Laval and Florida have been developing thin lenses made of polymers and glass that react to electric currents and change their focal length. The range is currently 60cm-infinity — not quite good enough for human optics (I like being able to see stuff within 60cm, personally) but certainly useful for cameras and other optical applications, and certainly a step in the right direction. When we are able to focus accurately using a single fixed lens and no moving parts that’s one fewer mechanical failure to worry about.
Popular science reports that the latest thing in spinal prothetics is the “Charité”, a couple of low-friction polyethylene discs sandwiched between a pair of cobalt-chromium plates which will actually replace a disc in the lower back. This is expected to be approved for use in the US sometime in 2005.
update: the device is currently being used; the FDA did approve it. In fact, there is another device called the ProDisc that is expected to be approved “relatively soon,” according to the medcompare article.
Read the full Popular Science article here. the article is no longer there. Don’t you hate that?
Read a brief mention in PopSci’s Future Body section.
Read about it on BoingBoing.
Read a discussion of the Charité and alternatives on medcompare.com
Read a rather dry but informative article on medscape.com