The Incredible Bionic Man

October 28, 2013

Movie Review By: Mr. Roboto

Year: 2013

Directed by: Tom Coveney

Source: Smithsonian Channel

Rating: 9 out of 10

Men of TIBM

“Gentlemen, we can build him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world’s first bionic man.”

Overview: Ever wondered how close we are to making a real artificial, cybernetic life form? A robotic android (”Roboid” as I would prefer to call them) like Lt. Cmdr. Data?

No?

Well, a couple of guys thought it would make for an incredible thought experiment… and, they went through with it earlier this year. Richard Walker (the bearded dude) and Professor Alexander Seifalian got together, along with Bertolt Meyer (psychology professor with an artificial arm and hand) as the model, and the most advanced bionic/cybernetic prosthetics and implants available and built TIBM (my name for him). The result… not bad for a first attempt, but it does have a long way to go to be Data. It does show, however, that we’ve come a long way from peg-legs and hook-hands (deal with it, pirates!). You can watch the video online at the Smithsonian Channel’s site or on YouTube.

 

Some assembly required.

TIBM parts laid out.

Batteries not included.

So what is needed to build your own TIBM? Well, you need a body-frame to install everything on, otherwise things fall apart very rapidly. Next, some limbs would help. Prosthetic arms and legs have been around for some time, but today’s computer technology practically makes them indistinguishable from the real thing, provided you wear long-sleeve shirts and full-length pants. Next, a skull made from a synthetic, bone-like material to house your cyberbrain… once that’s been made. A microphone for ears, special glasses for eyes, a latex “skin” face… so far TIBM is shaping up real good.

What about inside, where it counts? Another synthetic material has been developed that can be made into any shape, but for now it serves as artificial blood vessels. That should work with the artificial heart and nano-particle “blood” being used. They have an artificial kidney that uses real kidney cells, and a prototype pancreas. The Internet-based chatbot serves as the brain, albeit a primitive and imperfect brain.

So TIBM is looking more human, but what about moving like a human? Piece of cake for the hands and arms, but as for walking, the legs themselves don’t do it alone. That’s where a motorized, exoskeleton comes in for walking. Baby steps at this point.

TIBM (attempting) walking

You… put… one… foot… in… front… of.. the… oth… ther… and… soon… ah, screw it.

 

Better, Stronger, Faster… Cheaper. TIBM represents the advance of technology, inspired by The Six Million Dollar Man. If you want to compare price tags, TIBM costs only ONE million, so for one Steve Austin you can have a half-dozen TIBMs. One problem is that TIBM won’t have nuclear power sources of Austin.

The lack of nuclear power is but a minor nuisance, compared to other problems of TIBM. For one thing, some of the implants use Bluetooth, an unsecure wireless protocol leaving them open to hacking. Its walking ability needs much work still. TIBM is also incomplete, missing vital organs like the brain, liver, and digestive tract.

Ethical considerations were also brought up briefly; While the devices were made for people (like soldiers) who lost limbs or organs in accidents, some may try to “upgrade” themselves without a real medical need. Then there’s concern that TIBM may be the prototype of a new race that may supplant or destroy humanity.

Bertolt Meyer encounters the completed TIBM

Bertolt Meyer takes a trip to the Uncanny Valley as he meets the completed TIBM, complete with his face, for the first time.

 

Conclusion. We’ve certainly come a long way from peg-legs and Jarvick artificial hearts, but there is still some development to go yet before we can make fully functional androids. Even now, or as shown near the end of the show as Dr. Meyer tries a new prosthetic, developments and breakthroughs keep us moving closer to that day. And when that day does arrive… will humanity be ready? If TIBM’s fumble with a pint at the end is any indication, humans still have plenty of time to be prepared.

Dry Lung Overdrive: Mind Teardown

March 11, 2013

Music Review By: Mr. Roboto

Year: 2012

Artist: Mind Teardown

Written by: Ivan Myh [Ukraine] & Domagoj Kršiæ [Croatia]

Label: Crime:Scene

Download from: MediaFire

10lungfront.jpg

Track Listing:

1. Intro – 0:46
2. Death Increased – 4:16
3. Machine Messiah – 3:42
4. Wreckage – 3:28
5. Whisper – 3:31
6. Processing – 2:56
7. Anthrax Junkie – 4:04
8. Breakdown – 2:32
9. Outro – 0:40


Overview: Somewhere between going back to full time work, the original Half-Life, discovering a couple of games for possible review, and my own inherent laziness I’m surprised spammers haven’t totally taken over. At least I’ve been keeping an eye on things here… And have a chance to listen to some new tunes while working. Mind Teardown lead me to their debut and it’s been a pretty good listen. Nine tracks running in 25 minutes time, Dry Lung Overdrive will give your ears some sweet industrial/EBM sounds as the duo makes their musical statement for themselves, and their Euro-based Crime:Scene label (Might want to check out the label’s line up). You can also check out additional tracks they have on SoundCloud if this album is too short for your liking. In the mean time, let’s check the tracks:

 

Intro: Imagine waking up in the near future to the sounds of air-raid sirens as your radio proudly gives today’s weather as sunny with lots of radiation, highs expected to be near 110. As for the good news: THERE IS NO FUCKING GOOD NEWS!

 

Death Increased: A higher tempo track with distorted vocals. The chorus vocals really reverberate.

 

Machine Messiah: Some sharp guitar sounds punctuate this tune. Sort of like when Ministry went from synth to industrial.

 

Wreckage: Percussion begins with some nice hammer banging with this moderately paced guitar-driven work.

 

Whisper: A slower, somewhat softer tune. Makes for a nice change of pace.

 

Processing: This one sounds like some machinery doing… well, processing… stuff. Kind of funky actually.

 

Anthrax Junkie: Back to uptempo music. Fast beats abound with this instrumental.

 

Breakdown: Lots of percussion, like Ministry’s Twitch-era music, or a Stomp show.

 

Outro: More air-raid sirens while the announcement Everyone seen after eight will be shot. Sirens Corporation: Making Earth A Better Place closes out the album.

 

Conclusion: Mind Teardown has a debut that gives mid-80s industrial/EBM fans a good dose to keep them going with whatever cyberpunkish (or not) activity are engaged in. And this is just for starters…

While searching them on YouTube, I came across a link to an EP of theirs, Begin Self Destruction. I’m going the check it out, and keep listening the Dry Lung Overdrive while working, and at home. Good stuff.

This post has been filed under Cyberpunk Music by Mr. Roboto.

Quadriplegic Controls Robot Arm With Thought.

December 31, 2012

Source: Singularity Hub, CBS News (60 Minutes)

Woman with robot arm

Jan Scheuermann went from Wheel Of Fortune to a wheelchair, to being able to control a robot arm.

‘Breakthrough’ they say. 60 Minutes’s Scott Pelley used the term to describe the thought-controlled robot arm, though I suspect he may not have seen such machinery before. But given how this arm is controlled, “breakthrough” might be the appropriate term.

Jan Scheuermann appeared on Wheel Of Fortune in 1995. A year after her appearance, she was diagnosed with a hereditary condition called spinocerebellar degeneration (ataxia), which causes parts of her brain and spinal column to degenerate, leaving her a quadriplegic. Researchers at University of Pittsburgh’s Pitt School of Medicine attached two electrode arrays to her brain near the areas used for arm movement, and in a year she was able to use the arm as well as a normal person.

 

Four years in the making. The arm is the result of a Defense Department project called “Revolutionizing Prosthetics,” a project looking at making a new generation of prosthetic limbs that restore normal functions for soldiers who lost limbs in battle.

This old Associated Press video shows an early stage of the project where a monkey uses his mind to control a robot arm.

Sooner or later, this technology had to come to the average person, not just paraplegics but amputees as well.

In Jan’s case, having to connect the arm directly to her brain was necessary since her ataxia has ruined the connection(s) between her brain and limbs. For amputees, the connections are still intact so the connection can be made at the nerve endings.

 

Further refinements. Jan’s new arm is impressive, but still far from perfect. In the 60 Minutes video Jan has problems with grabbing objects she looks at. One possible solution is to use ‘touch’ sensors in the fingers to give feedback. Another possibility being considered is the use of Wi-Fi to eliminate the skull connectors.

Earlier this year, NIH’s NINDS division announced their BCI system called BrainGate. Link for further details.

Restoring arm and leg functions for amputees and paraplegics are only the beginning. They’re also looking at eyes (no pun intended), ears, and even artificial internal organs for for stroke and cerebral palsy victims, and even the elderly.

Once such artificial limbs and organs are ready for the general public, the only thing left to worry about is…

This post has been filed under Brain-Computer Interface, News as Cyberpunk by Mr. Roboto.

Thieves

August 6, 2012

Movie Review By: Mr. Roboto

Year: 2012 (maybe August)

Directed & Written by: J.G. Barnes

Zenisphere Chanel on YouTube

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Low

Key Cast Members:

  • Jason Arthur: Sheldon Simmons
  • Agent Janice Monroe: Kelly Kirstein
  • Extractor: Didrik Davis
  • Anna VanDerhoff: Lauren Kole
  • Rating: 8 out of 10

    Overview: Ever see a short movie and wished it could be made feature-length? OK, 9 made that jump in 09. Now, a new short has similar designs. Thieves made its debut in film-festivals in July, claiming audience choice at the Mitten Movie Project with a nomination for short of the year, and is now available for online viewing (like above).

     

    The Story: America has created a new prototype energy cell that is now powering New Detroit. To protect both the cell and the city, an agency known only as “Butterfly” is formed to foster patriotism and stability, and to “recruit uniquely skilled people” to make it all possible. However, a terrorist organization has taken the prototype cell and plan to dismantle it. While the world waits for Armageddon, Butterfly has captured a high-value terrorist and plan to “recruit” him.

    simmons.jpg

    Sheldon Simmons: Remember his name. I got a feeling his name will be called at some future Oscar ceremony.

    A Piece of a Larger Puzzle. Fourteen minutes hardly makes for a feature, so this short may make you feel like you’re missing a lot. THAT was intended:

    From the beginning, Thieves was conceived as an excerpt from a much larger saga of feature films. As such, Thieves is not a self-contained piece. It’s made quite clear from its opening moments to its closing frame that there is most certainly a hell of a lot more going on before and after the events showcased in the short film.

    Of course, there is the danger that if Thieves does become feature length it may become another Snakes on A Plane. But as long as the Zenisphere crew keeps true to their vision (and creative control of the project), that danger should be minimal.

     

    Conclusion: If you haven’t heard of Thieves before, be ready to hear more of it in the future. Zenisphere has made a slam-dunk short that’s going to leave you wanting more. Already gathering high praise from indie film bloggers, Thieves is set to garner even bigger accolades (like ours), and possibly become the next Blade Runner, or at least The Matrix.

    Foreshadows: The Ghosts of Zero

    July 1, 2012

    Book Review By: Mr. Roboto

    Year: 2012

    Author: The Very Us Artists

    Category: Cyberpunk Books, Cyberpunk Music

    Website: Foreshadows.net

    Foreshadows: The Ghosts of Zero

    Story/Track Listing:
  • Forward by C.S. Friedman (No audio track)
  • The Ghosts of Zero by “The Digital Alchemist” (No audio track)
  • 1. Geist Anthropic 1:4
  • 2. Too Much Is Never Enough
  • 3. Cenotaph, or We’ve Been Reduced To Lo-Fi
  • 4. Graveduggery
  • 5. Love Simulacra
  • 6. Cold As The Gun
  • 7. …And Weave The Spider’s Web
  • 8. Geist Threnodic 2:4
  • 9. Best Served Flash-Frozen
  • 10. Geist Eidetic 3:4
  • 11. All The Good Things You Are
  • 12. Twenty-One-Oh
  • 13. Made In Brazil | Living In Japan
  • 14. Crossed Swords
  • 15. Geist Intrinsic 4:4
  • 16. Anodyne Fading: The Wolf Without
  • 17. Lament
  • 18. Deep In The Deep: Reaction-Diffusion Dies Tonight
  • 19. Unto The Interface

  • Overview: Cyberpunk continues to inspire writers and readers some 35 years after William Gibson wrote his first short story. Now a new group of writers, artists, and musicians have come together as the Very Us Artists to create the latest cyber-anthology complete with its own soundtrack. It’s not so much a book and CD, but a multimedia package. But does it work as a whole, or should certain parts be omitted?

     

    The (Back) Story: The prologue (The Ghosts of Zero) gives us the basic back story of the rest of the book:

    Corporations became bigger than “too big to fail;” they became governments and nations unto themselves and the established powers were unable to stop them, especially when the corporations began absorbing military forces or creating their own as “security.” That’s when the Multinationals Wars(TM) started as the corporations screwed the law over and courts became battlefields. World economies virtually died out as currency was replaced by World Bank Currency, a.k.a. WBC, the W, or simply “dub.”

    Technology advanced as the corps wanted the best weapons for “hostile takeovers.” Robots and nanotechnology soon appeared, but without Skynet or SHODAN (which was good news or bad news depending on how you wanted to see it). The Internet slowly died out as privacy and freedom was overrun by surveillance and censorship, but was replaced by Worldnet, though nobody knows how it came to be.

     

    The (Front) Stories: At first, this anthology may seem like 19 separate stories set against the backdrop of the above scenario. But once you start reading the eighth story, you suddenly realize that there are more common threads running through the book than just the back story. In particular, the four “Geist” stories about a former pyra-play addict who risks everything to hunt down a creature called the “Geist” (as in zeitgeist, the spirit of the times). The Geist attacks systems like a mosquito feeding on blood, but in doing so causes major disruptions. The other stories gives background on the technologies, people, events, and the Geist itself.

    Not all the stories as connected. Some are simply stand-alone, side stories. Even so, they further enhance the dystopic scene of the (post)Multinational Wars(TM) as couriers, Stomp Brawl (a future MMA) fighters, librarians, and even children fight for personal and human survival in dark and dangerous times. My personal favorite is the librarians who are trying to save the data from an ice-based computer that’s shutdown and melting.

     

    The Soundtrack: Have you ever tried reading a book while music was playing in the background? Sometimes it helps to read with music from a radio, CD, iPod, or pirated MP3s playing as a “soundtrack” for your book. If only all books had its own soundtrack…

    Foreshadows does.

    A CD with the book (or MP3s with the ebook) has 19 tracks that correspond with all the stories (except the prologue) ranging from ambient synth-instrumentals to outright rock songs. I listened to the disk after reading the book and the tunes brought back some memories of the stories. It would have been better if I was listening while reading to get the full effect. But with or without the book, they still make good ear-candy.

    An example of the music from the Foreshadows CD: Bilian’s “Love Simulacra”

     

    Conclusion: The Very Us Artists have made their case for the next generation of cyberpunk, and it’s a pretty bold statement. A broad collaboration that shows what multimedia should have been in the 90s. Even now there’s word of more than could be published in a book. Webshadows continues where the book leaves off.

    Some might balk at the $36 US price tag for the book/disk combo, but given the amount of work that went into this project, the whole being more than just the parts, and current prices of books and CDs, the price is well worth it.

     

    Update: Just got word from John LaSala, one of the masterminds behind the Foreshadows project, that he is willing to cut 10% of the price for the physical package. Just go to their website, purchase, and when asked for a coupon tell them ROBOTO10 sent you.