January 30, 2008 Touch Bionics has announced that its i-LIMB
- the world’s first commercially available bionic hand - is expected to achieve the milestone of 100 patient fittings by the end of February this year, having already reached more than 70 people worldwide since its July 2007 launch.
It’s not often in this era of rampant technological innovation that a fundamentally new concept surfaces with groundbreaking societal implications, but that was the case this week with the news that engineers at the University of Washington (UW) have used microscopic scale manufacturing techniques to combine a flexible contact lens with an imprinted electronic circuit and lights. Ultimately, such devices promise the bionic capabilities we became familiar with in the Terminator movies and Bionic Man TV series: optical zoom eyesight, recording what we see (quite literally), effectively invisible heads-up high resolution computer displays, genuine GPS-based augmented reality and a complete real-time health monitoring system with visible read outs. Thanks to the team headed by UW Electrical Engineering Professor Babak Parviz, these concepts are now not just viable, but likely in the foreseeable future. Gizmag spoke with Parviz about the project …
August 6, 2007 The human hand is a magnificent triumph of evolution, combining a complex structure with incredible levels of facility and feedback to enable a stunning range of movements and uses. Its flexibility and usefulness also makes it a debilitating body part to lose and a huge challenge for those involved in the development of bionic limb replacements
. The latest innovation from Touch Bionics represents a major step forward in bionic hand development: with four smart motorized fingers and its unique multi-position motorized thumb, all operating from myoelectrically-detected nerve endings in the stump, the iLimb hand opens up a range of grips and fine motor abilities that prosthetic hands have never had before, like using a key in a lock, or one-fingered typing on a keyboard. Another important advance is the simple yet very effective feedback sensors in the fingers which control grip pressure to hold fragile items like styrofoam cups without dropping or crushing them. What's more, patients can choose between the iLimb hand's funky robotic look or another world first - an incredibly realistic skin that you can pull on to make it look almost identical to a real hand.
July 4, 2007 The more we learn about intelligent design, the more we understand the engenuity of nature, and the latest lesson in this regard has come during the development of a bionic robot arm by German researchers. The technology is expected to be used in therapy to restore the use of injured limbs, and low-cost, flexible prosthetic devices. Such devices could be commercially available within two years.
The evolution of the Computer Human interface may seem to be rooted in the infernal keyboard and its recent travelling companion, the mouse, but much work is being done in the areas of virtual worlds, voice recognition, handwriting recognition and gesture recognition to give us a new paradigm of computing. It now appears we are on the edge of another brave new virtual world – the direct interface between the brain and the computer is here. One of the Holy Grail’s of research, there are many such projects going on around the world at present. Now the German g.tec (Guger Technologies) group has taken the technology out of the lab and into the real world with a complete BCI kit, and amazingly, there’s also a kit for a pocket PC - a super-low-weight biosignal recording system “g.MOBIlab” is used to measure the EEG and the data processing, analysis and pattern recognition are performed on a commercially available Pocket PC or in this case, your windows PC. The first BCI system will enable the composition and sending of messages, and control of a computer game. There’s also an invasive (implanted) option still being trialled in the laboratory – this is significantly more effective abnd the system can already accept and process input from both the embedded array and the cap array. Though the first work in the area is focussed on enabling paralysed humans to communicate far more freely, the potential to enhance one’s communications quite freely is clearly not that far away. There’s also the potential unlocked by putting such a device into the hands of thousands of eager and capable amateurs who will no doubt broaden the understanding of the human mind with their pursuits. The BCI system
is nominated for the 2007 European ICT Grand Prize
Bridgestone has developed a rubber fin for a dolphin that lost most of its tail fin to disease. The beneficiary of the technology is Fuji, a 235-kilogram 2.7 metre female at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium. Fuji has regained nearly all of her swimming ability since receiving the new fin in what is believed to be the first-ever successful development of an artificial fin for a dolphin. Fuji has been in the Aquarium for 28 years, and the oldest of her three offspring, Ryu, 26 years of age, is the Japanese record holder for dolphin lifespan completely under human care. Fuji contracted the disease that caused progressive deterioration of her tail fin from the edge in October 2002. Amputating most of the fin saved Fuji’s life but left her unable to swim well. Volunteers at Bridgestone went to work on the rubber fin for Fuji in December 2002 and the company subsequently assembled a project team to tap the full range of Bridgestone’s rubber technology. The team delivered its first prototype in September 2003 and followed up with a second prototype the next month. A few years down the track and Fuji is fully recovered - that's her getting airborne, complete with her artificial fin.
February 19, 2007 Patients who have gone blind are a step closer to perhaps one day regaining some of their sight with the news that the United States FDA
has approved a study to evaluate an artificial retina. Researchers at the USC Doheny Eye Institute
are developing the technology that hopefully will help patients with retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration regain some vision using an implanted artificial retina. The announcement by Mark Humayun, professor of ophthalmology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC
and associate director of research at the Doheny Retina Institute, came at a press conference at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
in San Francisco.
February 15, 2007 If there’s an absolutely golden imprimatur for the person-most-likely-to-succeed, it’s the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize
. Jerome H. Lemelson
, one of the world's most prolific inventors, and his wife Dorothy founded the Lemelson-MIT Program funded via his own private philanthropic Lemelson Foundation
, the Student Prize recognizes outstanding inventors, encourages sustainable new solutions to real-world problems, and enables and inspires young people to pursue creative lives and careers through invention. Given that MIT attracts the very brightest students to begin with, the winner is usually a stellar high achiever and this year’s winner is already that. 2007 winner Nathan Ball's inventions include the Atlas Rope Ascender (see separate story) and a needle-free injection technology that will enable greater efficiencies in mass inoculations, both capable of saving many lives and both with many commercial applications. Last year’s winner Carl Dietrich is the CEO and CTO of his own flying car company Terrafugia
. We’ve also written about Saul Griffith
, the 2004 winner. All the winners
and their exploits in this article.
February 2, 2007 Man has been producing and administering drugs since the neolithic period. Initially these drugs were administered orally mixed with a liquid with the advent of pills making inhalation and the intramuscular or intravenous injection following. These days, the majority of the world’s drugs are administered via pills – pills offer an accurate dosage, but they are so convenient that it’s often possible to forget when you’ve taken them. Chronically ill patients get muddled when constantly having to swallow different numbers of tablets at different times, while those with dementia simply cannot cope. Now EU researchers are developing a better, more accurate and more convenient way – a dental prosthesis capable of releasing accurate dosages into the mucous membranes in the mouth. As it can administer accurate micro amounts over continuous periods, the prosthesis overcomes the peak concentrations that occur with taking pills and even offers the ability to monitor and maintain consistent blood levels of any drug. What makes the Intellidrug prosthesis unique is that, unlike existing drug prostheses and implants, it is small enough to fit into two artificial molars. Inside the patient’s mouth, it is readily accessible and can easily be maintained and refilled.
October 3, 2006 Walking is a dynamic process, so it might come as a shock to realise that up to now the function of artificial knee joints has been analysed using static images of extended and bent knees. However, these were scarcely able to explain why certain patients’ prostheses were painful again and again. This is a big problem, because about one million artificial knees are implanted each year, 40,000 of them in Switzerland. The situation led researchers at the Institute for Biomechanics
to analyse the problem in more detail and a mobile X-ray unit was developed that allows the knee to be x-rayed during normal walking. The purpose of the equipment is to help understand how an implanted artificial knee joint behaves during the everyday movement of walking.