SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest, 09/14.Oculus Rift telepresence, brain to body control, wireless power, biomedical membrane sensors, complex co-polymer assembly, Kepler’s planets, ultrasound textures, old-young stem cells.1. Telepresence Robotics with Oculus Rift.
A prototype telepresence humanoid robot has been given an immersive user interface via an Oculus Rift headset, torso sensors, and sensor-gloves http://singularityhub.com/2014/02/26/telepresence-robocop-piloted-by-oculus-rift-sensored-gloves/
. The user not only sees and hears what the robot can see and hear, the robot responds to the user’s movements - moving its head, arms, hands, and fingers when the user does, and further enhancing the immersive feeling for the user and allowing far more intuitive interactions with the environment. The movie Surrogates
comes to mind. There remain issues with (i) latency between human and robot movements, with the robot being too slow, and (ii) lack of sensory feedback, for example touch, pressure, heat, etc. Still, future neural interfaces, faster communications, and better robotic motors may overcome these hurdles to a true avatar-like experience. 2. Enabling Brains to Control Different Bodies.
On the topic of remote avatars: the latest development in brain-machine-interfaces involves the use of one neural prosthesis to record and decode the activity of pre-motor neurons in one monkey brain, and sending this signal to a second neural prosthesis to trigger motor control neurons in the spinal cord of a second (sedated) monkey and so carry out the same desired movement http://mediarelations.cornell.edu/2014/02/18/brain-signals-move-paralyzed-limbs-in-new-experiment/
. Such capabilities are extremely promising for allowing people to recover normal movement from spinal damage, for taking control of robotic avatars, and for both good and bad scenarios involving controlling other people’s bodies. 3. pCell: Enhancing Wireless Data AND Power Transmission?
Still a little speculative at this point but I still thought it worth including. Steve Perlman’s pCell technology for massively enhancing wireless data transfer was covered last week and is something I suspect we’ll all be benefiting from at some point. But one over-looked implication according to http://akbars.net/how-steve-perlmans-revolutionary-wireless-technology-works-and-why-its-a-bigger-deal-than-anyone-realizes.html
is that the pCell technology could also be used for enabling the first viable and useful wireless power transmission. Perlman even has patents on this implementation. This is something that would be transformative in our lives: our portable devices, cables, cars, robots, drones, implants, lights, etc would be set genuinely free. Thanks to +Jesse Powell
for sharing the article my way.4. Biomedical Membrane Sensor for the Heart.
A new implantable custom-fitted membrane laden with a range of different sensors designed to fit snugly and unobtrusively onto the heart hopes to transform patient monitoring and care https://news.wustl.edu/news/Pages/26554.aspx
. The tiny sensors are printed onto the membrane and can measure temperature, physical deformation, pH, ECG readings, and the device can also deliver electrical pulses to correct arrhythmia. The group plans to add other molecule sensors that would give early warnings and diagnose other heart problems. Co-opting such a device for other organs may also be prudent. 5. Complex Self-Assembly with Block Co-Polymers & Nanoparticles.
New work demonstrates the viability of self-assembled metal nanoparticles using block co-polymer-based cost-effective large-scale solution processing http://phys.org/news/2014-02-nanoparticle-networks-theory.html
. Beginning with platinum and gold nanoparticles that are grown until an introduced ligand precisely controls their size, then adding block co-polymers that bind with the nanoparticles, and finally mixing together produces self-assembled ordered, cubic, three-dimensional structures. Etching away the polymer leaves bonded nanoparticles forming porous 3D metallic networks. Such materials may have applications in catalysis, batteries, metamaterials, etc. 6. Kepler’s 715 New Extrasolar Planets.
NASA’s Kepler mission announced the discovery and verification of 715 new extrasolar planets orbiting 305 different stars, revealing many multiple-planet systems and bringing in the confirmed count of planets outside our solar system to 1,700 http://www.nasa.gov/ames/kepler/nasas-kepler-mission-announces-a-planet-bonanza/#.UxFbAvmSznQ
. The haul includes 400% more Earth-sized planets, 600% more super-Earths, 200% more Neptune-size, and just 2% more Jupiter-scale planets compared to what was known before the study. Such studies inspire the imagination, provide guidance to the study of individual planets, and produces configurations of planetary neighbourhoods that provides clues to planet formation. 7. Mimicking Textures with Ultrasound Vibrations.
A prototype touch-screen device unveiled at the Mobile World Congress uses low-power ultrasound vibrations to mimic a range of different textures and surface features on the screen http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2568359/Fujitsu-creates-tablet-tricks-thinking-youre-feeling-water-pushing-buttons-stroking-alligator.html
. The vibrations on the screen change the friction between the user’s finger and the screen and can mimic sensations of liquids, rough textures, edges, and wires and manage to do so with low energy requirements from a mobile device battery. Even the seemingly simple feature of implementing an interactive “button” with edges features would be a nice improvement to the user interface for touch devices, especially with touch keyboards. 8. Old Neural Stem Cells Restored to Youthful Potential.
Recent work on pools of neural stem cells residing in the brain reveal that (i) numbers of neural stem cells remain constant with age, (ii) any apparent loss of numbers is due to reduced proliferative potential of the stem cell niche or environment, (iii) transplantation studies of young and old stem cells into old and young brains prove the age of the stem cell is not a factor (age of the environment is) in proliferative potential, and (iv) young and old neural stem cells are not intrinsically different http://www.neurobiologyofaging.org/article/S0197-4580(14)00043-8/fulltext
. This suggests that factors produced in young neural tissues / environments maintain the proliferative potential of stem cells, can rescue old stem cells, and might be used to guide the development of therapies to restore the expression of such factors in aged tissues. 9. Restoring Photo-Sensitivity to Damaged Retinal Cells.
A new photoswitch molecule that improves on earlier versions by conveying light sensitivity to damaged light-insensitive retinal cells http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-02/cp-ndc021114.php
. Just one injection of the new molecule is able to confer light sensitivity to ordinary white light for several days. It is only after rods and cones have died that the molecule restores light sensitivity to cells. Further animal studies are required to assess the effectiveness of the molecule before it might be considered for human use. This seemed to be a quite novel approach and I wonder what other uses these and related molecules might be put towards, e.g. making other (engineered) cells photosensitive or making the retina sensitive to other regions of the EM spectrum. 10. Better Printed Electronic Inks.
New preparation methods for metal, graphene, and carbon-nanotube-based inkjet inks that are suitable for printed electronics, as well as post-processing methods for obtaining high electrical conductivities have been described http://www.nanowerk.com/spotlight/spotid=34566.php
. These inks can be used to print transparent electrodes, RFID tags, thin-film transistors, and solar cells. This latest review shows how to circumvent a number of challenges for such systems including stability against aggregation, adequate conductivity, and sintering to ensure continuous conductive paths. If you'd like notifications of these weekly Digests then just grab the SciTech Digest page here: https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/105994073381308284341/+ScitechdigestNet/posts+ScienceSunday
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