Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Elderly cyborgs get love from robots (!)

A companion talking/cuddling robot from Japan:
IOL: Computers / IT

"Tokyo - Japan's growing elderly population can now buy companionship in the form of a 45cm robot, programmed to provide just enough small talk to keep them from going senile.

"Snuggling Ifbot, who is dressed in an astronaut suit with a glowing face, has the conversation ability of a 5-year-old, the language level needed to stimulate the brains of senior citizens, according to its software designer.

"If a person tells Snuggling Ifbot "I'm bored today", the robot might respond "Are you bored? What do you want to do?"

"To a statement, "Isn't it nice today?", the robot could say, "It is a fine autumn day" by detecting the season from its internal clock.

"This robot has in its memory several million patterns of phrases that it uses when spoken to," said Takao Ohsuga, senior executive at Dream Supply, a Nagoya-based information technology firm that developed the product's software.

"By talking with this robot, seniors who are often alone can stimulate their brains and avoid becoming forgetful."

"The company has received 128 pre-launch orders for the robot, which hit stores yesterday at a cost of about R32 000.

"It has 15 programs, including singing songs and reading out quiz games.

Whatever happened to actually talking to the elderly?

Other links:
Firm develops talking 'cuddling robot' for elderly
Japan Today - Tokyo, Japan

Japanese robot to chat lonely elderly out of senility
Daily Times - Pakistan

Cyborgs Don't Need Implants: Brain Waves Can Control Computers

Mind Over Matter: Brain Waves Guide a Cursor's Path (washingtonpost.com)
"Neuroscientists and biomedical engineers in that specialty have become increasingly adept at making devices that translate people's thoughts into actions -- a potential boon for paralyzed patients. But the newest and reputedly most promising of those systems have been dependent on wire electrodes implanted directly into the brain, presenting risks of infection and other complications.

"By contrast, the cap that Hamel has been test-driving picks up on brain waves emanating from his skull. With it, he can send computer cursors on various trajectories and zap targets as they appear on a screen, using nothing more than a series of mental impulses.

"'People have assumed you'd have to put electrodes in the brain to get this level of control,' said lead researcher Jonathan Wolpaw, chief of the nervous system disorders lab at the state health department's Wadsworth Center. 'But noninvasive methods can be a lot better than people have given them credit for.'

"Wolpaw's 'thinking cap' sports 64 sensors (the polka dots) that detect electroencephalographic (EEG) signals generated by neurons."

Compare to an article blogged earlier this month on the sensor implanted under the skull and directly into the brain of quadriplegic Matthew Nagle, which allowed him to control a computer and other machines using pure thought.

Cybernetic Intelligence: Surveillance and Cleaning

PRESS RELEASE: IXEurope and Reading University’s Cybernetic Intelligence Research Group (CIRG) Launch Robotic Surveillance Project for Data Centers
"Working together for the first time IXEurope and Reading University's world-leading Cybernetics group start research on applying artificial intelligence to mission-critical data center operations.

"London, U.K (PRWEB) December 14, 2004 -- IXEurope, Europe's specialist data center services company, has today announced it is to link up with a team from the University of Reading to fund a Cybernetics research project with the aim of developing a robot featuring cleaning, monitoring and surveillance capabilities. The robot, based on an existing 'autonomous' robot - with sensors and electronics that enable it to clean a room without direct human intervention -, will be equipped to monitor the data centers whilst it cleans."

Oh yes, I can see it now in technicolor: introverted, cowed, derided skinny geek husband buys wife a super-duper cybernetic housecleaner for Christmas; one carefree Wednesday afternoon ("hump day" in the metaphoric sense only for the poor dufus husband slaving away at the office reading memos), wife has menage a trois with neighbour and postman; cybernetic feedback from said spying cleaning device appears on husband's computer monitor during his 35-minute lunch break; husband drops tasteless egg salad sandwich on dry white bread onto his desk, spattering white drippy chunks in slo-mo over the keyboard; mayhem ensues; tragedy unfolds; everybody dies.

Get your own cyborg pet with its own artificial chromosomes

The New Zealand Herald:

"Professor Kim Jong-Hwan believes people will one day keep robots as pets.
"Korean scientists have created the world's first 'artificial species' - a robot with genes that it can pass on to other robots.

"Professor Kim Jong-Hwan, already known as the creator of 'robot football', has developed 14 artificial chromosomes that he says will determine robots' 'personality'.

"He believes that within 20 years lonely people will use their personal robots to keep them company, replacing cats and dogs."

Cyborgs Need Toys too: Hot Wheels Cyborg Assault Track Set

Walmart.com - Hot Wheels Cyborg Assault Track Set

From the WalMart online catalogue:
"Are you ready for the battle of kid vs. cyborg? The Hot Wheels Cyborg Assault Track Set is packed with speed, power, performance and major attitude. It's got everything any little racer desires.

Swinging arm action that rips the highway in two
Includes two exclusively decorated vehicles
Not for use with some Hot Wheels vehicles
Requires 4 D batteries (not included)"

Monday, December 27, 2004

Cyborgs Don't Have to be Paralyzed

Stem Cell Researcher Makes Paralyzed Rats Walk

From Irvine, California:
"Hans Keirstead is making paralyzed rats walk again by injecting them with healthy brain cells sussed from a reddish soup of human embryonic stem cells he and his colleagues have created.

"Keirstead hopes to apply his therapy to humans by 2006. If his ambitious timetable keeps to schedule, Keirstead's work will be the first human embryonic stem cell treatment given to humans. [...]

"Keirstead has been turning stem cells into specialized cells that help the brain's signals traverse the spinal cord. Those new cells have repaired damaged rat spines several weeks after they were injured."

A related Reuters news release describes injecting polyethylene glycol intravenously to improve the healing of dogs with severe accidental spine injuries. Earlier experiments indicated that polyethylene glycol was capable of "fusing" severed spinal cord nerves in guinea pigs.

Semi-Living Ear: The Extra Ear Project by Stelarc

Extra Ear ¼ Scale - The Tissue Culture & Art Project in Collaboration with Stelarc

Now cyborgs can grow their own ears and, hopefully, attach them to their bodies as soft prosthetics. Why? Well, to confront "broader cultural perceptions of 'life' given our increasing ability to manipulate living systems" and deal with "the ethical and perceptual issues stemming from the realization that living tissue can be sustained, grown, and is able to function outside the body." Why else? (and maybe notoriety, attention, grant $$$$$...)

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Self-assembly of spider silk fiber via genetically engineered viruses

Scientists achieve self-assembly of spider silk fiber in insect cells
Via BoingBoing: Spider dragline silk, which is stronger than man-made fibers such as nylon or steel fiber of the same diameter, is impossible to farm (as is the silk from silkworms) because spiders are so territorial. After injecting the genes for making dragline silk proteins into an insect virus, researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and from Germany infected cultures of cells from a caterpillar with the virus. The cells began to produce "spider fibers."

"The research enabled us to determine the close connection that exists between the sequence, structure and functions of the proteins," said Dr. Gat. "From a practical viewpoint, mass production of fibers, whose diameter is one-thousandth of a millimeter, is likely to be useful in the future for manufacture of bulletproof vests, surgical thread, micro-conductors, optical fibers and fishing rods; even new types of clothing may be envisioned."

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Sousveillance: A Gathering of the Tribes

Sousveillance: A Gathering of the Tribes
A forthcoming issue on the the topic of sousveillance in A Gathering of the Tribes magazine:
"We are looking for contributions reflective of how the arts are affected by monitoring and surveillance (socially pervasive computing) that are affecting human liberties. Defining the public space and identifying the opportunities for expression that public spaces afford needs to be contrasted with the importance of defining freedom and privacy in this era of instantenous access to information. From consumer data fed to advertisers via creditcards, to collecting information to 'protect' us from terrorists, to the monitoring of books we buy or borrow, the fact is that information collection systems are ubiquitous and converging with bio-informatics data mining, facial recognition, and even personal DNA data systems. Our world is closing in and the opportunities for autonomous creative expression are declining along with it. Reestablishing power and control over our own lives may come from a creative appropriation and understanding of how surveillance systems are integrated into the social  environment.  Sousveillance is one potential avenue towards achieving this goal.Surveillance, meaning to watch from above, can be countered by eveloping the art of Sousveillance, a phrase coined to describe the act of watching from below. Sousveillance is as an inverse to surveillance, watching the watchers, and bringing the cameras down from the heavens, from  lamp posts and buildings to human-eye-level. The camcorder recording which spotlighted police brutality in the Rodney King case represents a seminal act of sousveillance. For the issue of Tribes titled Sousveillence, we seek creative works exploring how individuals and cultures artistically respond to and represent our world under surveillance. New media performance emphasizing the importance of public reflection on ubiquitous surveillance and sousveillence is encouraged, as well as essays, short stories, poetry and visual works that assist in defining the ideals of human centeredness in a mechanical and monitored world."

Monday, December 13, 2004

Biofeedback and Cyborg Spirituality: The Journey to Your Innermost Being

Wild Divine: About the Game

It Had to Come: Deepak Chopra wants you to get intimate with your inner being via a $160 biofeedback game:

"Wearing three finger sensors that track your body's heart rate variability and skin conductance, you move through enchanting and mystical landscapes using the power of your thoughts, feelings, breath and awareness.

Wise mentors guide you throughout the realm, empowering you with yoga, breathing and meditation skills needed to complete over 40 biofeedback 'energy' events.

Build stairways with your breath, open doors with meditation, juggle balls with your laughter, and so much more. The Journey makes biofeedback, a popular method of alternative healthcare, easily accessible and empowers you to take mind-body wellness, literally, into your own hands."

Cyborg's Sex Manual 1.0

Cyborg's Sex Manual 1.0

The text is the usual pretentious stuff but the images are creative and interesting.

Toronto's own cyborg Steve Mann wins the Leonardo Awards Program Award for Excellence

networked_performance: The Leonardo Awards Program recognizes artists and organizations involved in the use of new media in contemporary artistic expression. Artists and organizations are nominated by Leonardo/ISAST Associate Members.

Steve Mann (Canada) is the recipient of the 2004 Leonardo Award for Excellence. In his winning article, the author presents 'Existential Technology: Wearable Computing Is Not the Real Issue' as a new category of in(ter)ventions and as a new theoretical framework for understanding privacy and identity."