Monthly Archives: February 2010

New sensors built using nanotech could read and write information directly into the brain

from EVOKER:

Telecommunications researchers in Japan are attempting to create electronic sensors that can not only receive information from the brain, but could manipulate our neural pathways.

“Establishing connections between the brain and electrical instruments is important for understanding how the brain works and for controlling neural activity,” says Torimitsu, who heads NTT’s Molecular and Bioscience Group.

Video: 3D printed robot arm

from Shapeways: (via Bruce Sterling)

It is early days yet but the first iteration of Kris Reed’s actuated robot arm looks very promising.

You can check out Kris’ blog post on how he came to make his arm here or see the 3D printed robot arm that will one day subjugate humanity in action below.

GEOtube concept: A building that grows its own weblike skin

from Inhabitat:

It may sound a bit creepy, but wouldn’t it be cool if buildings could grow their own skin? California-based architecture firm Faulders Studio certainly thinks so.

GEOtube, their proposal for Dubai is almost exactly like a normal building – except for the fact that it will have the ability to generate a web-like saline skin that spreads down the façade of the structure over time. [...] When the water evaporates, salt deposits will be left behind forming the tower’s exo-skeleton.

Tiny chip made of paper diagnoses diseases and costs just a penny

from PopSci:

A Harvard University chemist has created a prototype “chip” technology out of paper that could help diagnose HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases for just a penny each time, according to CNN.

A drop of blood on one side of the paper chip results in a colorful tree-like pattern that tells physicians or nurses whether a person has certain diseases. Water-repellent comic-book ink helps channel the blood into the tree-like pattern, as several layers of treated paper react to the blood and create the telling colors.

Bio-inspired networks self-organise and learn

from ITC Results:

Powerful computers made up of physically separate modules, self-organising networks, and computing inspired by biological systems are three hot research topics coming together in one European project.

European researchers have developed an innovative computing platform. At the heart of the system are many small modules, each made from chips with an inbuilt ability to learn. A self-configuring wireless network connects the modules, allowing them to operate as a coherent group.

Light-activated on/off switch for DNA nanomachines

from rsc.org:

A light-activated switch to turn nanomachines on and off has been developed by Japanese researchers. The team showed how tiny tweezers made with DNA could be triggered to open and close in response to UV and visible light. The clever mechanism is hoped to find useful roles in designing future nano-robots.

‘We are designing DNA nano-robotics that are mechanically operated by light rather than chemical fuel,’ says Hiroyuki Asanuma, who led the research at Nagoya University, Japan. ‘In other words, we are creating “environment-friendly” nano-robotics.’

Artificial robot skin will use quantum tunneling

from MIT’s Technology Review:

Peratech makes an electrically conductive material called quantum tunneling composite (QTC). When the material is compressed electrons jump between two conductors separated by polymer insulating layer covered with metallic nanoparticles.

QTC robot skin could perhaps let a robot know precisely where it has been touched, and with how much pressure. It could also be helpful in designing machines that have better grasping capabilities, and for developing more natural ways for machines to interact with humans.

Argus III – The artificial retina is near!

from Singularity Hub:

Argus seeks to create an epiretinal prosthesis, a device that will take the image from a camera and send it to your brain via your optic nerve.

The first two phases of Argus (which we call Argus I and Argus II) have had extraordinary success with implants in more than 30 patients.

Now, LLNL is getting ready to launch Argus III – the third phase that will expand the number of patients, the quality of vision provided, and ease in which the device is implanted.

Tiny sensor could run for years harnessing energy from its environment

from Singularity Hub:

The University of Michigan has produced a miniature sensor that harnesses solar energy and could last for years without needing to be replaced.

Composed of a solar cell, processor, and battery, the tiny device is only 2.5×3.5×1mm in size – a thousand times smaller than a commercial version of its type.

Coming Soon: Flowers that can smell like anything

from Singularity Hub:

Ever wanted a rose that smelled like bananas? Maybe a petunia that reeked of root beer? Researchers at the University of Florida Gainesville have isolated 13 genes in flowers that key for the blossom’s fragrance.

According to a news release from UF and an interview in Discovery News, these scientists have already started work on tastier tomatoes, and their first crop of petunias that smell like roses are scheduled to blossom this summer.

DARPA seeks smart robotic hands

from PopSci:

National Defense reports that the DARPA program aims to create inexpensive robotic hands that can perhaps also replace existing prosthetics for amputees.

Engineers can already design specialized robotic arms better suited for any number of specific tasks than human hands. But DARPA specifically hopes to see arms and hands that can mimic the general adaptability and flexibility of human hands.

h+ interviews Marc Millis on space travel, time travel, quantum tunneling & Zero-G sex

from h+ Magazine:

Marc Millis, former head of NASA’s Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Project, has designed ion thrusters, electronics for rocket monitoring, cryogenic propellant equipment, and even a cockpit display to guide free-fall aircraft flights.

His recent retirement after nearly 30 years with NASA has freed him to devote full time to his Tau Zero Foundation, “using the dream of reaching other worlds as both a long-range goal and a catalyst for near-term progress.”

Japanese researchers create levitating chair prototype

from DVICE:

The concept works almost exactly like an air hockey table, with a series of air compressors mounted to the bottom of the chair.

As it stands (or floats), the chair has a lot of problems. It wouldn’t work on rub or the tatami mats they have in Japan, for instance, and its ground clearance doesn’t give it too many options when it comes to uneven terrain. Still, the chair is just a prototype and the researchers are looking for investors — so maybe they have some grander designs.

Cryonics company and family battle over ownership of woman’s head

from io9:

A bizarre legal case pits the family of recently-deceased Mary Robbins against Arizona cryonics companyAlcor.

Robbins signed a contract with Alcor to have her head cryogenically frozen after her death. But now her daughter won’t hand the head over.

Robot teachers in Korean classrooms by 2012

from Engadget:

We’d had some indication that robot teachers could be headed to classrooms sooner or later, but it looks like things may now be progressing faster than anyone thought.

According to South Korea’s etnews, the country has announced plans to invest in a so-called “R-Learning” program that promises to put robotic teaching assistants in up to 400 pre-schools by 2012, and expand to a full 8,000 pre-schools and kindergartens the following year.

Symposium: The future food supply – biotech, nanotech & synth-biology roles discussed

from ScienceDaily:

[...] Synthetic biology, nanotechnology, genetic engineering and other applications of biotechnology — and the public’s role in determining their acceptable uses — were all addressed by panelists during the session. [Association for the Advancement of Science]

“Unaided food production is an unattainable ideal — current society is irrevocably grounded in the technological interventions underpinning the agricultural revolution that now strives to feed the world,” Hill said.

Guilty Robots: Virtual ethics based on guilt

from ABCNews:

Dr. Arkin has begun work on an ethical system for robots based on the concept of “guilt.” As a robot makes decisions, such as whether to fire its weapons and what type of weapon to use, it would constantly assess the results and learn.

If the robot established that its weapons caused unnecessary damage or casualties, it would scale back its use of weapons in a future encounter. If the robot repeatedly used excessive force, it would shut down its weapons altogether  though it could continue to perform its other duties such as reconnaissance.

Stanford AI software to comprehend what humans write

from MachinesLikeUs:

“The problem of the age is information overload,” said Manning. “The fundamental challenge I’m going to talk about is how we can get computers to actually understand at least a reasonable amount of what they read.”

As computers make more sense of what’s online, they will deliver more relevant search results and will help summarize, structure and act on information that individuals care about, much like a personal assistant.

DARPA looks to build real-life C3P0

from WIRED:

Darpa, the military’s experimental research agency, is launching the Robust Automatic Translation of Speech program to streamline the translation process.

The RATS software will be programmed with voice-recognition technology, to identify people on a military most-wanted list. It’ll also be able to automatically detect specific, preselected “key words or phases.”

More details on Invetech & printing 3D body parts

from Next Big Future: <- [Much more at link]

[...] The printer, developed by Invetech, fits inside a standard biosafety cabinet for sterile use. It includes two print heads, one for placing human cells, and the other for placing a hydrogel, scaffold, or support matrix.

Invetech plan to ship a number of 3D bio-printers to Organovo during 2010 and 2011 as a part of the instrument development program. Organovo will be placing the printers globally with researchers in centers of excellence for medical research.