Programmable Tattoos

As an alternative to a flexible wearable display, how about a subdermal display? Or else one painted onto the skin?, 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.

Print your own robots

Before you get too excited, this technology has not actually been implemented yet. But a recent article on describes the way a simple robot may be printed on a standard printer, modified to use special polymer inks. There’s a rundown of all the components required, and details on how each may be printed. Did you know it is possible to print a 1.5 volt battery? I didn’t, until I read this article.

Imagine how much fun kids are going to have: design a papercraft robot on the computer, print it out, program it to fly around and follow you down the street. Program two robots to fight each other. Make an origami rosebud and watch it bloom. Just fill in the blanks: Make a _______, program it to _______ and watch it _______.

Via Responsible Nanotechnology and Nanotechnology Now

The Diamond Age: an overview

Just about any futurist has sexy dreams about nanotechnology. Imagine: flawlessly building items on the molecular level from base elements. Solving all our scarcity problems: energy, resources, food. With the ability to create anything from the molecules up we are as gods.

Want to know more about nanotech?

  • is a good place to start. It’s a mostly non-technical site that gives a good overview of nanotech, as well as a rundown of the pros and cons.
  • The International Nanotechnology and Science Network is a research group that delves into the technology and implications of nanotech.
  • K. Eric Drexler maintains a site primarily about nanotechnology and distributed computing. There are oodles of technical articles for you to enjoy.
  • Nanotechnology Now is a high-volume news site that looks at all things nano-scale. Printable robots, fuel cell tech, nanomedecine — it’s all there.

Why is this category called “The Diamond age”? It’s named after one of my favourite novels, by one of my favourite authors: Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer Buy this at Amazon Buy this at Chapters

Abortion-related googlebomb call

If you have a website and you think reproductive rights are worth fighting for, please take a moment to link to the National Abortion Federation using the word “abortion” as the link text. The current leader in Google rankings is an assholish organization that is virulently anti-abortion (I’m not going to link to those fuckers), rather than an abortion information site.

For more information on the abortion googlebomb campaign see this post by Jake.

More on swarm robotics

Last month I talked about swarming robots learning to play football together. More recently, NASA and MIT sent a little satellite called a “droid” up to the ISS. They’re in the process of teaching it to navigate around the station, then they’re going to send up some more identical droids and teach them to fly in formation.

Of course, they’re not just flying them all with one remote control — that would be cheating. Instead, the satellites would act as swarmed robots, communicating position and velocity and other relevant data to each other and operating completely autonomously. Once the programmers on the project (dubbed SPHERES) perfect their navigational capabilities they’ll begin teaching them to do other stuff, such as building and repairing space-borne structures.

update 2006-06-23 13:16: This news came via Worldchanging, but apparently The Daily Show mentioned it last night as well.

Second Life: build your own ecosystem

Holy shit. One of the developers of Black and White has bought an island in SL and has turned it into a self-sustaining ecosystem. This is fucking nuts. Check it out: there are scripted clouds that blow across the island. Occasionally they rain down onto the ground, which is scripted to absorb a certain percentage of the moisture based on the kind of earth and the angle it’s at. There are trees and flowers in the earth that are scripted to react to sunlight (taking into account the time of day and current amount of cloud cover), and to react to the amount of water in the earth and grow, flower and produce pollen. Then there are bees. Motherfucking bees that go from flower to flower distributing pollen. Then the flowers generate seeds — with genetic traits from both parents — which blow on the wind and have a certain percentage chance to implant depending on what kind of earth they land on and what species they are. Unless the seeds get eaten by the fucking birds that fly around the island!

Everything is interdependant, so changing the number of bees will change the rate at which flowers get pollinated, and so on. From the article:

“It’s very sensitive to very small changes,” [creator Laukosargas Svarog] says, “like if a gene emerges which gives a plant an extra seed in its lifetime, that can cause huge growth in its locale. And the opposite of course, one less causes thinning growth. I’ve also seen the same color become a dominant gene so all the meadow cup plants became blue once. Simple things like that emerge quite often.”

This blows my mind! Check it out on Wagner James Au’s blog.

Fallen Angels Used Books

Fallen Angels Used BooksIt’s been a while since I ranted about a webcomic, but this one is worth it: Fallen Angels Used Books. It’s very sweet, magical, well-drawn. There’s a very Changeling feel to it — the idea of another world overlaying this one, invisible to anyone who doesn’t believe it exists. People who look magical but pass unnoticed by anyone whose denial is well-developed enough. You can even sort of pick out a few kith among the characters: Nocker, Eshu, Pooka a little. And the world feels like the real one, not like some Vampire: the Pretention version of things where supernatural creatures secretly rule everything.

I heartily recommend you check it out. As usual, I recommend that you start from the first strip. Oh, and there’s not even the problem of really bad art, because the artist went back and redid the first several chapters :)

Touch-sensitive film

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.