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Bionics and Their Recent Advancements

Dated: 13 Mar 2013
Posted by Cameron Mehin
Category: Uncategorized

While Bionics were once only in the realm of Hollywood science fiction films, they are now quickly becoming a reality. Videos posted to Youtube have become a testimony to advanced being made and the impact they have on peoples lives.

The Bionic Hand, is one of synonymous technology tied to bionics. The hand is also the most versatile tool we possess and recreating it poses a litany of challenges. Dr. Silvestro Micera and the research and development team at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland are working to usher in the next generation of artificial limbs by coupling them with sensory perception. The strategy, direct linking of  two electrodes into an individual’s nervous system will enable thought driven movement in addition to a sense of touch through the units sensors. Even with all the advancements that have been made there are still several issues to overcome including how to seamlessly integrate the wiring and the potentially physical andmental fatigue associated with the system. Micera believes that a full working model could be complete in two years.

Vision that you can feel: Infrared is not typically part of the visual spectrum, but research by Dr. Miguel Nicolelis at Duke University has changed that for lab rats. The technique integrates an infrared detector into the part of the brain responsible for the sense of touch, essentially allowing for the rats to feel the light. The notion of applying one type of sensory information to an area of the brain that typically handles different information gives potential to “rewire” senses in cases of a brain injury or as we see here, augmentation. Nicolelis’ second paper is due out later this year and will touch on the possibility of a “brain-to-brain interface.”

Human Powered Devices: A mobile, always on/always available, power source would be the holy grail in today’s mobile device centric world and its getting a little bit closer to reality. With advancements in flexible OLED screens, batteries and circuits at what seems like every week, Fujifilm took it to the next level. The creation of new thermoelectric conversion material that can convert variations in temperature into electricity.  The current iteration of the technology can produce several milliwatts of electricity in just one 1 degree Celsius of difference. Fujifilm notes they will be able to print sheets out at varying sizes and are initially looking at applying it to medical devices and in solar panels to increase efficiencies.

As the convergence between humans are machines continues to push forward, the bionics industry will be shaped and developed. Private industry and research institutions are pursuing bionics diligently to bring their technologies to fruition; while today it’s helping the blind and amputees, tomorrow human augmentation will allow us to upgrade our physical bodies with new, superhuman-like capabilities.

Space. The Business Frontier?

Dated: 4 Mar 2013
Posted by Thomas McIntyre
Category: Uncategorized

my_asteroidGovernment agencies have dominated space exploration for decades.  Once considered a sign of national prestige and advancing R&D efforts, more countries have been trimming their space budgets due to strained finances and the United States is no exception.

Nevertheless, a plan by the Obama administration is attempting to fuse American capitalism, aerospace, and entrepreneurship in an effort to revive the struggling space exploration sector.  In this time of economic austerity, all programs are under the microscope and subject to cuts; thus by funding public-private partnerships (PPP’s), the administration hopes to support a new generation of spacefarers.  However this time with a profit motive.

Companies such as SpaceX, Planetary Resources, and Stratolaunch Systems are pushing to realize the commercial potential of such ventures.  Everything we hold of value—metals, minerals, energy, and real estate—are in infinite quantities in space. As space transportation and operations become more affordable, what was once seen as a wasteland could become the next gold rush. Think about Alaska. What was previously considered a folly is now a billion-dollar economy.

According to recent reports, some of the asteroids can unlock vast tracks of wealth. One category, known as S-type, is composed of iron, magnesium silicates and a variety of other metals, including cobalt and platinum. An average half-kilometer S-type asteroid is worth more than $20 trillion according to analysts.  To put this in perspective, the global GDP last year was about $70 trillion dollars.  What this would do to the commodities and futures markets cannot yet be quantified nor fathomed, but with a valuation that phenomenal one thing is for sure: American entrepreneurs should gear up for the new space race.