"Yes! Success!" It wasn't quite "Mr. Watson. Come Here. I need you." but it could prove to be just as revolutionary: Researchers at the University of Washington have completed the first experiment demonstrating human brain-to-brain communication.
Electronics store Maplin has become the first major high-street store in the UK to sell 3D printers. The Velleman K8200 costs £700 and can print smartphone cases, toys and replacement parts out of plastic.
Small electrodes placed on or inside the brain allow patients to interact with computers or control robotic limbs simply by thinking about how to execute those actions. This technology could improve communication and daily life for a person who is paralyzed or has lost the ability to speak from a stroke or neurodegenerative disease. Now, University of Washington researchers have demonstrated that when humans use this technology – called a brain-computer interface – the brain behaves much like it does when completing simple motor skills such as kicking a ball, typing or waving a hand. Learning to control a robotic arm or a prosthetic limb could become second nature for people who are paralyzed.
A group at Tokyo Institute of Technology, led by Dr. Osamu Hasegawa, has succeeded in making further advances with SOINN, their machine learning algorithm, which can now use the internet to learn how to perform new tasks. The system, which is under development as an artificial brain for autonomous mental development robots, is currently being used to learn about objects in photos using image searches on the internet. It can also take aspects of other known objects and combine them to make guesses about objects it doesn't yet recognize.
Proteus Digital Health has developed a pill that can text an alert when it enters a patient’s stomach.
The technology, widely tested and already available for over-the-counter sale in a pilot program in the UK is just one of several new developments in caregiving technology designed to prevent hospital readmissions and relieve family caregivers of the persistent worry: “Is Dad taking his meds?”
Moves to bring human-like senses to computers, i.e. incorporating the addition of touch, voice, facial recognition and other technologies into our information and communication devices, are gaining ground.
The future of robotics in surgery will involve an increasingly powerful virtual environment, where surgeons are able to see through the body and potentially work side by side with autonomous robotic assistants.
A group of researchers from the University of Duisburg Essen in Germany used fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to come to the finding, tracking blood flow in the brains of 14 study participants when they were shown videos of humans, robots and inanimate objects being treated either affectionately or harshly. The researchers, who will present their findings at the June International Communication Association conference in London, found that when participants were shown videos of a robot (a product called Pleo, which resembles a dinosaur) petted, tickled and fed, areas in their limbic structures—a region of the brain believed to be involved in emotional responses—activated. When they were shown videos of a human getting a massage, the same sorts of neural activity occurred. The same pattern also occurred when the participants were shown videos of the robots and humans being treated harshly—shaken, dropped or suffocated with a plastic bag—but with a twist. Interestingly, their fMRI results showed levels of limbic activity much greater when they saw humans treated poorly than when they saw the robots. This correlated with the responses on surveys that the participants took after watching the videos, on which they reported some empathy for the robots, but more for the humans.
Devices inside pills could monitor health issues or deliver targeted cancer drugs. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University are developing edible electronic devices that could monitor health, deliver drugs, or stimulate damaged tissue in the gastrointestinal tract or small intestine.
Patients would swallow a pill containing the device. According to Christopher Bettinger, an assistant professor at CMU, the power sources for the devices would be made of flexible polymer electrodes and a sodium ion electrochemical cell. Once in place, the device could power biosensors to measure biomarkers, check for gastric problems, or aid in targeted drug delivery for certain cancers. The very first digital pills, which tell doctors whether patients are taking their prescriptions correctly, were approved just last year.