And oldy, but a goody.
This article talks about what's in future store for people who need to have their limbs replaced with prosthetics.
Darpa, the Pentagon's blue-sky research division, now wants to ratchet that work up about ten notches, by developing a "neurally controlled artificial limb that will restore full motor and sensory capability to upper extremity amputee patients. This revolutionary prosthesis will be controlled, feel, look and perform like the native limb."
So, basically, what Luke Skywalker gets in Empire Strikes Back, after Darth chops off his hand. Except, researchers won't have a long, long time to get this limb ready. Darpa wants the robo-arm stat -- in four years or less.
The limb would have to be wired directly into the peripheral nervous system, instead of the brain-controlled arms being demonstrated today, Darpa tells researchers interested in working on this "Revolutionizing Prosthetics" project. Under agency guidelines, the arm will need enough finesse to pick up a raisin or to write in longhand. It needs to be sensitive enough for the wearer to handle day-to-day tasks in the dark. And the limb will have to be strong enough to lift 60 pounds at a time.
The article contains some interesting links. Additionally, this article links to a flashwave file that demonstrates how monkeys are taught to control robotic arms with their thoughts.
In order to view the flashwave file, first save it to disk (by either leftclicking or rightclicking and then saving). Once you have it on your harddisk, you can drag it into an Internet Explorer window to play it.
For more coverage (and pretty pictures) of monkeys thought-controlling robotic arms, read this link.
Should you be curious as to the future of prosthetics for humans, read this article:
"[For the] long term, we want to develop a system that allows humans with paralysis to move their limbs in a way that they can carry out useful movements and lead independent lives. And we want to develop a new class of neurotechnologies that can diagnose and treat disease and restore lost functions in humans," said Donoghue. "These are ambitious goals, but we believe they are realizable."
For anybody who wants to read about the very real and existing BrainGate system in action, read this article and this article.
The last link has a video of a paralyzed Matt Nagle controlling a mousecursor with his thoughts alone. Unfortunately, viewing this requires registration. If anybody knows a link to the video, I'd appreciate to have it so I can put it in this post.
I think I can summarize this post nicely by saying...
We are becoming cyborgs.