Showing posts with label Augmentation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Augmentation. Show all posts

May 19, 2015

New Body Parts

As I gear up for Hip Replacement #2, my sister sent this funny comic to me. 

I heard that something like a million joint replacements are now done in the U.S. every year. 

And these procedures are expected to increase precipitously with projections by 2030 of:

- 3.48 million knee replacements (a factor of almost 7 times)

- 572,000 hip replacements (an almost 2-fold increase)

This also means that revision surgeries will start to rise rapidly as replacements wear out or are in need of replacement themselves. 

Thank G-d that they have these procedures to help people--I don't know how people lived with the incessant pain and degenerative mobility even a generation ago. 

What's it like to have a body part inserted to augment your own?

Just ask this horse! ;-)
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November 5, 2014

Luv Technology, Always

No reason for Sir/Madam technology here to feel down in the dumps.

Yes, we love you technology.

And not just sometimes, but always! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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October 11, 2014

High-Tech Dance Shoes


These shoes are called Kangoo Jumps.

They provide the high-tech bounce for dancing, running, or other exercise.

This video is from their 2014 International Festival in Florida that I had the opportunity to watch.

Amazing what the participants were able to do and the fun they had.

I'd like a pair and to be able to kick up my heels like that too. ;-)

(Source Video: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 1, 2014

Robot Man

Don't know exactly what it is about this little robot guy, but I really liked it. 

The simplicity of the body and limbs joined by the connector joints and the head as just a clear crown on the rest.


To me, it looked relatively realistic as how robots of the future might actually look.


Humanoid, but so sleek that they are us but in many ways a step up from our aging selves. 


Perhaps, someday the brains of humans and the bodies of machines will really come together in a better alternative to ourselves.


Living (indefinitely) longer and even pain free in bodies that carry mind and soul into the future. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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December 8, 2013

Amazon Delivery - By Crunk-Car, If You Like

Jeff Bezos of Amazon is one very smart guy and when he announces that he is interested in drones delivering your next online order that makes for a lot of grandstanding. 

But really how is a dumb drone delivering an order of diapers or a book so exciting. 

Aside from putting a lot of delivery people at USPS, UPS, and FedEx out of work, what does the consumer get out of it? 

Honestly, I don't care if if the delivery comes by Zike-Bike, Crunk-Car, Zumble-Zay, Bumble-Boat, or a Gazoom, as Dr. Seuss would say--I just care that it gets here fast, safely, and cheaply. 

Will a drone be able to accomplish those things, likely--so great, send the drone over with my next order, but this doesn't represent the next big technological leap. 

It doesn't give us what the real world of robotics in the future is offering: artificial intelligence, natural language processing, augmentation of humans, or substitution by robots altogether, to do things stronger, faster, and more precisely, and even perhaps companionship to people. 

Turning surveillance and attack drones into delivery agents is perhaps a nice gesture to make a weapon into an everyday service provider. 

And maybe the Octocopters even help get products to customers within that holy grail, one day timeframe, that all the retailers are scampering for.

It's certainly a great marketing tool--because it's got our attention and we're talking about it.

But I'll take a humanoid robot sporting a metallic smile that can actually interact with people, solve problems, and perform a multitude of useful everyday functions--whether a caregiver, a bodyguard, or even a virtual friend (e.g. Data from Star Trek)--over a moving thingamajig that Dr. Seuss foresaw for Marvin K. Mooney. ;-)
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September 2, 2013

Warrior Augmentation

I love the direction DARPA is going in with robotic exoskeletons for our warfighters. 

Helping soldiers perform their jobs easier, more capably, and with less injury using human augmentation is good sense. 

Military men and women often carry weight in excess of 100 pounds for long distances and perform other tasks that challenge human physical endurance.

Creating a durable "soft, lightweight under[or over]suit that would help reduce injuries and fatigue and improve soldiers ability to efficiently perform their missions" is an smart and achievable goal, and one that would give us great advantage in the battlefield. 

The timeframe of 2012-2016 is an aggressive deadline to form the mix of core technologies, integrate them, and develop a wearable prototype. 

I think the goal of having this be "potentially wearable by 90% of the U.S. Army population" is notable as not something that is for just special forces or unique missions, but rather something that can medically protect and make for a superior fighting force for all of our men and women. 

This is really only the beginning of human augmentation with sensors, storage, processors, and robotics to make our warriors fight with the best that both man and machine has to offer. It's not a fight of man versus machine, but of man and machine. 

Seeing and hearing farther and with more clarity, connecting and communicating timely and under all conditions, processing loads of data into actionable information, fighting and performing mission with superior skills (strength, speed, dexterity, and endurance) and integrated weapon systems, guiding warriors to their targets and home safely--these are goals that man-machine augmentation can bring to reality. 

And of course, the sheer medical and rehabilitative benefits of these technologies in caring for the sick and disabled in society is enough to "pedal to metal" drive these efforts alone. 

Like on the prescient show from the 70's, The Six Million Dollar Man, "We can rebuild him. We have the technology...Better than he was before. Better...stronger...faster."

And I would add healthier and more deadly! ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to DARPA and Boston Dynamics)


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July 15, 2013

Those Are Some Prosthetics


Wow, prosthetics have come a long way--these are tough!

This video from Biodapt shows their high-performance Moto Knee being used in a variety of action sports including snowmobiling, motor biking, mountain biking, horseback riding, water skiing, snow boarding, and jet skiing. 

Bloomberg BusinessWeek (11 July 2013) explains how the Moto Knee has hydraulic components that provide "tension and range of motion for intense physical activity."

They cost around $6,000 and don't replace the regular walking version, but Mike Schultz, the developer understands the need for these advanced prosthetics having lost a leg himself in a 2008 competitive snowmobiling accident. 

I think it's wonderful that these high-tech devices are being made available for disabled people to be able to do a wide range of exciting activities. 

My hope is that as the technology continues to advance that we can have--like a person's legs--one prosthetic device that is adaptive for use in every day use as well as more intense activities and sports. 

It is hard to imagine people voluntarily trading their body parts for mechanical implants--but one day, in the not too distant future, these mechanical limbs will not only be a substitute for repair of real body parts, but will actually provide some superior capabilities--they will be used for body augmentation--and thus even be desirable by those who haven't lost limbs. 

What gives a leg up to prosthetics, as Hugh Herr in the Wall Street Journal (12 July 2013) put it is "that the designed parts of the body can improve in time, whereas the normal body, the biological body, degrades in time."

With regenerative medicine and replacement parts by design, more than ever our physical bodies will be just the transient vessel that houses our heart, mind and soul--that which really makes us, us. ;-)
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June 2, 2013

Virtual Government--Yes or Nonsense

The Atlantic (2 June 2013) asks why do we even need a government these days--why not just have a virtual one--where you just "buy" the government you want, the size, the capabilities, and you tailor it for your needs?

The author sees government as menu-driven, like a videogame, by a "rotating dial," where you choose whatever government suites you best. 


In this world of virtual government, people are seen turning to private sector alternatives to get capabilities, customer service, and prices that are better than the government's--in some cases, this may actually work, like with private insurance. 


However, this article goes beyond this notion to where government is not tied to the physical boundaries of the real world, but rather to virtual jurisdictions, citizenship, and even values held or abrogated. 


While I agree that raising the bar on government is a good thing--expect more for less--and partnering with the private sector can make government more efficient, the idea of wholesale shopping government around is quite ludicrous: 



- Will we hire mercenaries instead of having an armed forces?

- Will we rely solely on CEOs to conduct our diplomacy?


- Will justice be doled out by vigilantes? 


- Will private inspectors alone regulate food, drug, and the financial system?


While compared to an iPad wheel for making service selections, Government is not the same as a library of songs or movies that one scrolls through to pick and choose what one likes and dislikes. 


Like the old joke about the difference between family and friends...you can choose your friends, but you can't just choose your family!


While government can provide services virtually, it cannot be a government entirely sliced up by choice--where you opt-in for what you like and opt-out for what you don't--if that were the case, we would all selfishly take and never contribute to the greater good. 


For example, "Hey, I like social entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare, but I don't particularly care for contributing to space exploration or research and development for certain diseases that I may not be genetically predisposed to."


There is a civic commons where we must share--the prime example is a fire department. If I choose not to contribute, then the fire department still has to come to put out the fire or else it can spread to others. 


In the end, we are not just a collective of individuals, but a nation bound together by core values and beliefs, and shared interests and investments in the future--and where by sharing the risks and burdens, we fall or rise together.  


Like anything that you are seriously apart of--family, religion, organizations, and work--we take the good and work on the bad, rather than just immaturely throwing it all or in innumerable parts away. 


Yes, government should only do functions that are inherently governmental, and we should avail ourselves of all the talent and expertise in the private sector for the rest, but no, we should not wholly think that we can replace government with loose and shifting ties on the Internet and purely profit-driven private sector players. 


If Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda serving as modern virtual governments are the best examples of what can be accomplished, then we should all be running (not walking) to good 'ol Democracy of the U.S. of A.


Virtual government as a way to provision services as well as competition and augmentation by the private sector is great, but becoming a stateless state will not solve the large and complex problems we must face, not alone, but together.


Even though bureaucratic waste and abuse is bad, the system of debate, negotiation, checks and balances, basic human rights, and voting is good, and we should not just throw out the precious baby with the dirty bathwater. ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)



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May 25, 2013

Kurzweil, Right and Wrong

Ray Kurzweil the famous futurist is an amazing person, but like everyone he has his good and bad days.

When it comes to the Singularity--Kurzweil had a very good day. 

With the accelerating speed of technology change, the advent of super intelligence and superhuman powers is already here (and continuing to advance) with:

-  Smartphones all-in-one devices give us the power of the old mainframe along with the communication capabilities to inform and share by phone, text, photo, video, and everything social media. 

- Google Glass is bringing us wearable IT and augmented reality right in front of our very eyes.

- Exoskeletons and bioengineering is giving us superhuman strength and ability to lift more, run faster and further, see and hear better, and more. 

- Embedded chips right into our brains are going to give us "access to all the world's information" at the tip of our neural synapses whenever we need it (Wall Street Journal).

In a sense, we are headed toward the melding of man and machine, as opposed to theme of the Terminator movie vision of man versus machine--where man is feared to lose in a big way. 

In man melded with machine--we will have augmentations in body and brain--and will have strength, endurance, and intelligence beyond our wildest dreams.

However, Kurzweil has a bad day is when it comes to his prediction of our immortality. 

Indeed, Kurzweil himself, according to the Journal "takes more than 150 pills and supplements a day" believing that we can "outrun our own deaths."

Kurzweil mistakenly believes that the speed of medical evolution will soon be "adding a year of life expectancy every year," so if only we can live until then, we can "Live long enough to live forever."

But, just as our super intelligence will not make us omniscient, and our superhuman powers will not make us omnipotent or omnipresent, our super advances in medicine will not make us, as we are, immortal. 

Actually, I cannot even imagine why Kurzweil would want to live forever given his fear-inspiring Singularity, where advances in machine and artificial intelligence outpaces man's own evolutionary journey. 

Kurzweil should knock off some of the pills and get back to humankind's learning and growth and stop his false professing that humans will become like G-d, instead of like a better humans. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 2, 2012

Superabled, Not Disabled


This is a video of South African sprinter and Olympic hopeful, Oscar Pistorius--a double amputee fitted with curved, carbon-fiber prosthetic "Cheetah Blades" that can "challenge the fastest sprinters in the world."

There was a fascinating article about this in the Wall Street Journal today (2-3 June 2012)--on how high-tech implants are being put in people's bodies and brains, changing them from disabled to "superabled."

The article explains how "the goals for many amputees is no longer to reach a 'natural' level of abilities, but to exceed it, using whatever cutting-edge technology is available."

And just like body implants are helping spur superhuman abilities, so too neural implants can stimulate brain activity to focus attention, faster learning, hone skills, and augment performance. 

Last September, Tim Hemmes, paralyzed from a motocycle accident, was able to use a brain implant to move a mechanical arm, just with his thoughts!

"Technology can give us brains and brawn" and those with disabilities and the elderly who have lost mental and physical capacities will be early adopters--"they have a lot to gain and are willing to face the risk inherent in new medical technology."

There are many ethical questions when it comes to human implants--especially when it comes to the possibility of people voluntarily substituting technology for healthy body parts--just to have the Steve Austin-like, Six Million Dollar Man, bionic capabilities. 

Another question is once we start replacing our body parts--our very selves--with technology augmentation, at what point do we stop being us?  

And at what point, do we potentially stop being human and become something else--half human, half machine--or even more machine than human?  

Like the mythical creature, the centaur, which was half man and half horse--it seems like humans have always wondered about what makes them who they are and ultimately what they might become if they try to co-exist or meld with something altogether different.

By combining technology into our humanity, we are becoming something different--maybe a super human, if we use it ethically and for the good. Or perhaps we may become something more malevolent, if we go on to abuse our superabled powers to dominate or otherwise harm those less souped-up than us.  

Only time will tell where technological implantation and human augmentation ultimately takes us--it holds both enormous promise that we need to leverage and frightening risks that must be carefully planned and managed.

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December 24, 2011

Wheelchairs Get A Boost

I am very excited by this new assistive technology for personal mobility coming out of Japan that can be used to help the aged or handicapped.

Rather than have to buy a separate electric scooter for longer distances that is heavy and can be challenging for people with certain disabilities to use, the WHILL is a simple add-on that can be attached to and removed from a regular wheelchair and can be steered, like a Segway, simply by leaning in the direction you want to go.

The WHILL is high-tech looking--like a futurist headphone that you place over the wheels of the chair and according to Gizmodo, it turns the wheels with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that powers the chair up to 12 mph for 19 miles and then recharges in under 2 hours.

While pricing information is not yet available, my assumption is that this add-on will be significantly cheaper than a full-out electronic scooter.

One concern that I have about the WHILL is how someone who is wheelchair-bound will be able to attach/remove the drive-train device without the help of an aide or nurse. Perhaps an even more futuristic version will have the U-shaped WHILL built with push-button retractable arms, so that the attachment can simply "open up" rather than have to be removed.

Another question that I have is what safety features will be built in for example for automatic cut-off should someone using it get ill and keel over unto the device causing it to drive/spin out of control. I am thinking a weight-sensor on the WHILL that detects if too much of a person's body weight is leaning on it and then cause a safety shutdown.

Overall, I am encouraged by what WHILL will soon be bringing to help people in need to get around more easily in the future.


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November 1, 2011

Replacing Yourself, One Piece at a Time

Here is a wonderful idea to help people who use prosthetics--a smartphone built right in to the artificial limb.

What was once a challenging task to hold a smartphone and make calls, write emails and texts, or just search the web is now just a push of a button or voice command away.

This is a user-centric and functional integration of technology with medical science to help those who have either lost limbs or been born without them.

While a step forward for the disabled, perhaps this is also a move towards future technological augmentation of regular body parts as well.

What was once a tattoo or body piercing on the periphery may soon become an implanted smartphone in the body part of your choosing.

The concept reminds me of the MTV show "Pimp My Ride" where run-of-the-mill cars are completely made over into new awesome vehicles by stripping them and rebuilding them with better, cooler parts.

Is this where we are going with our human bodies--where one day we are an old beat-up minivan only to have our parts swapped out and replaced with biotechnology to become a new hotrod convertible once again.

Now we are moving from leveraging technology for medical purposes to tinkering with our our physical bodies, using technology, for preference.

Yes, this is already being done with facelifts and other cosmetic surgery, but how about replacing entire body parts not because they are diseased, but because you want or can afford an upgrade?

Lot's of exciting and scary implications to think about with this one--as our body parts become replaceable almost like legos--snap on and off.

In the future, becoming a better, stronger, faster person may not be just a function of what you do, but how much you can afford to replace.

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August 21, 2011

Deus Ex-Overtaken By Technology

Deus Ex is an action role-playing game (RPG) and first person shooter game. It sold more than a million copies as of 2009 and was named "Best PC Game of All Time."

A prequel Deus Ex: Human Evolution is due to be released this month (August 2011).

You play a coalition anti-terrorist agent in a world slipping further and further into chaos.

The time is 2052 and you are in a dystopian society where society has progressed faster technologically than it has evolved spiritually--and people are struggling to cope with technological change and are abusing new technology.

The challenges portrayed in the trailer show people using/abusing technological augmentation--the integration of technology with their human bodies--replacing damaged limbs, adding computer chips, and even "upgrading themselves".

There are many issues raised about where we are going as a society with technology:

1) Are we playing G-d--when we change ourselves with technology, not because we have too (i.e. because of sickness), but rather because we want to--at what point are we perhaps overstepping theologically, ethically, or otherwise?

2) Are we playing with fire--when we start to systematically alter our makeup and change ourselves into some sort of half-human and half-machine entities or creatures are we tempting nature, fate, evolution with what the final outcome of who we become is? As the end of the trailer warns: "Be human, remain human"--imagine what type of cyborg creatures we may become if we let things go to extremes.

3) Technology may never be enough--As we integrate technology into our beings, where does it stop? The minute we stop, others continue and we risk being "less intelligent, less strong, and less capable than the rest of the human race." In short, are we facing a technological race toward dehumanization and enhanced machines.

4) Drugs and other vices follow--To prevent technology augmentation from being rejected, mankind relies on ever larger and more potent doses of drugs. We not only risk losing elements of our humanity to technology, but also to drugs and other vices that make us forget the pain of change and rejection (physical and perhaps emotional).

Deus Ex literally is Latin for "G-d out of the machine." Perhaps, future dystopian society starts out by people trying to play G-d, but I think the risk is that it ends with the proverbial devil displacing the best laid intentions.

While technology holds the most amazing of promises from curing disease, solving world hunger, and endless innovations (even including developing the archetype bionic man/women--"We can rebuild him...we have the technology"), without a solid moral compass and frequent check-ins, we run the risk of technology getting away from us and even doing more harm than good.

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