iRobot, Human Style

Although the focus of the story is helping handicapped people, I think it is obvious that the goals are much broader. There is a reason that DARPA is behind the study. Imagine being able to control a drone directly, without having to rely on a computer game joystick. Or equipping soldiers with heavy exoskeletons that turn a single soldier into a walking tank (shades of Metroid). The possibilities are endless, and somewhat frightening at the same time. Remember the movie Surrogates?

I just find it interesting that the project is being publicized in this way. Fact is, although it may lead to ways to help handicapped people, right now they are the guinea pigs for development of much less altruistic objectives.

Brain-controlled technologies could restore communication, mobility and independence for patients like Hutchinson, who is identified as patient S3, said Dr. Leigh Hochberg, engineering professor at Brown University and a neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital. “We are hoping to provide a technology that will translate the intention to move, as decoded directly from brain signals, back into commands to control assistive devices or prosthetic limbs,” he said.

Previous research by this team proved that paralyzed patients could control a computer cursor with their thoughts, and last fall, neuroscientists at Duke Medical Center proved that monkeys could control a robotic arm with their thoughts. This new paper, appearing today in Nature, shows it can work in humans. Hutchinson had the implant for five years, according to study co-author John Donoghue, who has led the development of the technology known as BrainGate. The fact that it worked for so long — both the implant, and her motor cortex itself — is an encouraging sign, he said

via Video: In Breakthrough Study, Paralyzed Patients Move a Robotic Arm With Their Own Thoughts | Popular Science.

 

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The Mayan Calender Does Not Run Out In 2012

Darn, based on this Mayan calendar there are at least 5700 years left before the apocalypse.

“We realized these were calculations based on the Maya calendar and astronomy that projected 2.5 million days — some 7,000 years—into the future,”

via Precision Calendar Found in Mayan Ruins – News Blog – SkyandTelescope.com.

Fountain of Youth?

I was just telling someone the other day that it seems like when we start figuring out this thing called life, it’s over with. I would not mind having an extra 10, 20 or 50 years of reasonably good health in order to take advantage of what little I have learned. For me, I would spend those years cultivating my relationships with my family, friends and kids. What I have learned along the way is that other than the relationship with my Creator, nothing else really matters.

In a discovery that Science magazine hailed as one of the top 10 breakthroughs of 2011, researchers from the Mayo Clinic published results showing they could markedly delay the onset of age-related diseases in mice by killing off the rodents’ senescent cells. Senescent cells have stopped dividing and accumulate as organisms age. Though seemingly dormant, they’re not: Just as old cars in junkyards can leak oil for years, they emit harmful substances that appear to fuel many of the diseases that strike older people.

via The Hunt for an Anti-Aging Pill Is on – US News and World Report.