Saturday, January 22, 2005

Cyborgs Can Have Robotic Protatectomies

Robotic vs. Open Prostate Surgery
The Henry Ford Hospital has an interesting video clip describing the daVinci Robotic Surgical system (wmv, 16.8MB). Despite the rather disturbing sappy-feel-good soundtrack, and Dr. Mani Menon's comparison of the removal of the cancerous prostate to scuba diving or The Fantastic Voyage, the combination of computer-enhanced visualization and robotic surgery looks pretty amazing.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Cyborg Rat Cell-Silicon Chips

Biology Meets Microchips to Make Tiny Robots

How to make self-assembling silicon-organic machines. So let's imagine if these little moving devices were grown on mesh like little skin-jackets (see Cyborg Couture): if the mesh form was shaped like a whole body, we could make self-assembling cyborg homunculi. Add a little microprocessor head, and you've got a baby cyborg-Frankenstein. Here's a Quicktime movie (8MB) of the device. Here's the article by Jianzhong Xi, Jacob J. Schmidt and Carlo D. Montemagno: "Self-assembled microdevices driven by muscle" (Nature Materials 16 January 2005).

Here's the press release:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Rat cells grown onto microscopic silicon chips worked as tiny robots, perhaps a first step toward a self-assembling device, researchers working in the United States reported on Sunday.

They described a new method for attaching living cells to silicon chips. They then and got the combined entities to move like tiny, primitive legs.

Writing in the journal Nature Materials, Jianzhong Xi, Jacob Schmidt and Carlo Montemagno of the University of California Los Angeles said it is possible to make such devices, starting with a single cell 'seeded' on a specially treated silicon chip.

They used rat heart cells in one experiment and created a tiny device that moved on its own as the cells contracted.

A second device looked like a minuscule pair of frog legs.

'A microdevice had two 'legs' extending from the body at 45-degree angles; each leg had a 'foot' extending at a 45-degree angle,' the researchers wrote.

It may eventually be possible to grow self-assembling machines using the method, they said."

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Masamune Shirow's Appleseed in Theatres


By the maker of Ghost in the Shell (the manga), Appleseed is a new cyborg anime set in the future, post WWIII. Masamune Shirow--or his web design team--shows an intelligence about web publishing, distributing, and sharing way beyond North American film studios (which have preferred to threaten adoring fans with lawsuits). The official website includes a "fan site kit" with exclusive screenshots from the movie and elements from the site for fans to use.

From the official website:
"Story: The year is 2131. A non-nuclear war has left the earth barren. Deunan Knute roams the badlands, one of the many soldiers who, with lines of communication cut, continue to fight, unaware that the war has ended.

Deunan is never one to take things lying down: a highly trained soldier with police and SWAT experience, she is prepared for nearly anything--but not for the heavily armed helicopter that assaults her without warning. Before she realizes what's going on, Deunan is losing consciousness: her last thought is a hazy realization that she's been hit by a tranquilizer. Not only that, but one of the perpetrators is her old love Briareos. He has arrived with the beautiful Hitomi to intercept Deunan and take her back with them to the enigmatic utopia, Olympus.

Deunan, now safe in the futuristic city, is awakened by the comforting voice of her ex-lover. But Briareos is not as she remembers him: indeed, he is now hardly human. He tells her the sobering events that occurred in her absence: after suffering a grave injury on the front lines in North Africa, his only chance for survival involved a dramatic surgical process - or more accurately, a full overhaul that involved a replacement of all his broken parts. In other words, he became a cyborg--in his case over 75% mechanical. And the city of Olympus--Deunan soon finds out--is now the head of a new world order. When the non-nuclear war ended, and no single superpower came out on top, the orderly, utopian city filled the role of leadership in the ensuing political vacuum. Globally, the status of Olympus is now such that the 'unsupervised countries' actually depend on its assistance to survive."