Half man, half machine: The cyborgs are coming
Wednesday 18 November 2009
Until now, man-machine hybrids, or cyborgs, have been the stuff of trashy sci-fi flicks. But thanks to a recent breakthrough in implantable electronics, people mightn't need pockets to carry their tech gadgetry in the near future.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have developed ultra slim and flexible electronic circuits on silk that dissolve once implanted inside the body leaving the electronics behind to do their thing.
Until now, implanting electronics into tissue required the circuitry be encased to protect it from shorting out from moisture or irritating the tissue. Using nanometre thin silicon etched onto silk however means that circuits can work fine inside a body without any irritation.
The applications of this breakthrough are boggling, opening up potential for all sorts of future fun.
One of the more obvious applications already being talked up is LED tattoos that can show blood-sugar levels. Taking things one step further, the future could see programmable tattoos able to be changed on a whim, or even turned off depending on circumstances. Stuck for cash? How does using a silk/silicon tattoo for paid advertising at the beach sound?
Even more intriguing is the concept touted by the silk/silicon developers which could see embedded electrodes providing an interface between a nervous system and other electronics.
Not only could this make it significantly easier for disabled people to interact with computers and other devices, but it could also open up new treatment avenues for disorders such as Parkinsons disease.
Equally promising, silk/silicon electrodes could also transform prosthetic limb designs.
Whilst advances in artificial limb designs have seen breakthroughs such as Dean Kamens Luke arm. Recipients of such ultra-advanced prosthetics have had to endure prolonged training to use the limbs. Using embedded silk/silicon electrodes could see thought-controlled artificial limbs becoming a reality. Longer term, the technology could also see seamless brain-to-computer interfaces making typing and clicking obsolete. Sending an email, Facebook message or even a tweet could become as simple as thinking "send a tweet to..."
On a slightly more sinister note, digital security could suddenly take on a whole new level of significance should human embedded circuitry prove vulnerable to hackers.
Making work colleagues literally kick themselves or tattoo spell out something obnoxious might become the new office prank. But given the role the central nervous system plays in controlling a range of human body functions, would-be cyber assassins could theoretically shut someone down with, say, an embedded pacemaker.
The silk/silicon technology is still however in its infancy with the amount of electronics able to be implanted still fairly limited.
At present, making devices involves 1mm silicon transistors and 250 nanometres thick being transferred onto a thin film of silk which is implanted and wetted with saline, causing it to conform to the curvature of the tissues' surface.
Source: NZ Herald
elephant appealThe first 23 lots in our charity auction have now gone. But there are 22 more still up for grabs
Look beyond the usual shows for the best festive telly
Geoffrey Macnab does not like the comedian's big screen debut
The battle for control of Stieg Larsson's £30m legacy
Life & Style blogs
The 10 Best Scotch Whiskies
America's 'virgin births'? One in 200 mothers 'became pregnant without having sex'
GTA 5: Rockstar bans gamers stealing in-game money worth millions
Winter Solstice: Shortest day of the year marked with 'knitted' Google Doodle
In pictures: Christmas in London through the ages
- 1 Tim Sherwood challenges Daniel Levy to set out vision for Tottenham Hotspur’s future
- 2 French pub fined €9,000 after customers returned empties to bar - because it's 'undeclared labour'
- 3 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 4 #Teamnigella: It’s the only side to be on
- 5 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
- < Previous
- Next >
iJobs Gadgets & Tech
£25000 - £35000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: PHP Deve...
£380 - £410 per day: PCR Recruitment Limited: Agile Business Analyst with expe...
£70000 - £80000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Solutions Architec...
£30000 - £36000 per annum: PCR Recruitment Limited: We are looking for an inno...