Programming Atoms Not Bits: Personal Fabrication

March 30, 2007


Illusive Mind posted in the Meatspace Forums Tech News of the Day thread a cool Youtube video of MIT professor Neil Gershenfeld who is interested breaking down the “false” barrier between physical science and computer science. We’ve been using computing for harnessing information when Gershenfeld argues that we need to move “from progamming bits to programming atoms.” The projection of digital fabrication is in the here and now. Digital fabrication involves where the output of computations affects the physical world – meaning it arranges material (atoms), not information (bits). In this sense the materials themselves actually contain the information. This is wholly different from current computer aided manufacturing where we have a mind (computer) working with dumb machines and raw material to create things. In this new approach, the computer IS the tool, and the output of the computation programs the physical world.

Gershenfeld claims that the message coming from his ever growing “fab labs” is that it allows people to locally design and produce solutions to local problems. In a sense, this gives us the ability to easily create products for a market of one person. Similar to the burst in social computing, Gershenfeld sees the use of computing for personal fabrication to be just as powerful. Personal Star Trek Replicators are in our future, ladies and gents. If there was ever an idea that could take power away from the multi-national corps, this is it!

This post has been filed under News as Cyberpunk by SFAM.

Soft-tissued Muscles Coming to a Sexroid Near You!

February 4, 2007

Biomimetic Technologies Project Screencap


The Livejournal Cyberpunk Collective member “ca91″ found a story about Tufts University Biomimetic Technologies Project’s creation of the first soft-bodied robots.


While robots have moved from the realm of science fiction to a myriad of real-life uses, the potential of the “hard-bodied” robots of the 21st century remains limited by their stiff construction and lack of flexibility. A group of researchers at Tufts University has launched a multidisciplinary initiative focused on the science and engineering of a new class of robots that are completely soft-bodied. These devices will make possible advances in such far flung arenas as medicine and space exploration.

…According to Kaplan, the project will bring together biology, bioengineering and micro/nano fabrication. “Our overall goal is to develop systems and devices–soft-bodied robots–based on biological materials and on the adaptive mechanisms found in living cells, tissues and whole organisms,” he explains. These devices, he notes, will have direct applications in robotics, such as manufacturing, emergency search and retrieval, and repair and maintenance of equipment in space; in medical diagnosis and treatment, including endoscopy, remote surgery, and prostheses design; and in novel electronics such as soft circuits and power supplies.


Biomimetic Technologies Project Screencap


While they are definitely working on technology destined for the betterment of mankind, and more specifically, appear to be experimenting with caterpillar prototypes to get soft-bodied locomotion, ca91 predicts a more profitable use of this technology achievement:


Yeah, right :) I’ll make a prediction now:

This technology will become popular for the same reason the internet did: porn! But in this case it’ll be sex toys :D


Masume Shirow Intron Depot Art


Considering the significant advances Japan and Korea and have been achieving in creating female androids, I gotta agree – it’s only a matter of a time before high-priced Cherry 2000s hit the assembly line. One can already imagine hoards of nerdy venture capitalists, fresh off of making millions in the tech industry, descending on Masume Shirow to offer contracts to design customized product lines. This industry is gonna be jumpin!

This post has been filed under News as Cyberpunk by SFAM.

AI Coming to a Computer Near You in 2014!

June 6, 2006

Andoromedia Screen Capture


Cyberpunk Guru Mac Tonnies over at Posthuman Blues found a poston Better Humans that discusses the potential for developing a singularity by 2014. An AI development company named Novamente is looking for funds to make a massive investment in AI to hasten the development of a singularity:


According to Novamente’s project plan, with proper funding they will have human-level AI in six years. Their goal is to create a learning system that can ultimately be self-improving. By this year or next, they aim to have an autonomous intelligent infant interacting in a simulated world. By 2009 at the latest, they’re aiming for the equivalent of a young child. By 2014, at the far end of the spectrum, they aim to have an AI that can reason abstractly and communicate in complex English. As early as 2010, they may have a “strongly self-modifying AI.” And that, as most readers will know, could kickstart a rush into the Singularity.


While this is pretty cool, one wonders if the bar for a signularlity is being scaled back. If you ask 5 people for a definition of a singularity, rarely will you find any concurrence among the definitions. While I truly wish Novamente all the success possible, I almost wonder whether we would agree with them if they actually declared success.

This post has been filed under News as Cyberpunk by SFAM.

Our Tongue Holds the Key to Cyborg Integration!

April 28, 2006

Tongue Brainport


Researchers at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition have been experimenting with using a tongue as the “brainport” conduit for connecting cyborg-like implants. Their test subjects are soldiers, with the hope being that they can give soliders an edge in the battlefield.


By routing signals from helmet-mounted cameras, sonar and other equipment through the tongue to the brain, they hope to give elite soldiers superhuman senses similar to owls, snakes and fish.

Researchers at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition envision their work giving Army Rangers 360-degree unobstructed vision at night and allowing Navy SEALs to sense sonar in their heads while maintaining normal vision underwater turning sci-fi into reality.

The device, known as “Brain Port,” was pioneered more than 30 years ago by Dr. Paul Bach-y-Rita, a University of Wisconsin neuroscientist. Bach-y-Rita began routing images from a camera through electrodes taped to people’s backs and later discovered the tongue was a superior transmitter.

A narrow strip of red plastic connects the Brain Port to the tongue where 144 microelectrodes transmit information through nerve fibers to the brain. Instead of holding and looking at compasses and bluky-hand-held sonar devices, the divers can processes the information through their tongues, said Dr. Anil Raj, the project’s lead scientist.


Really interesting is the question of how humans treat this extra-perceptual capabilities. Will they eventually think of it as similar to their real senses, or will this be similar to wearing a pair of sun glasses or something? The wierd one to me is the eyesight enhancers:


Work on the infrared-tongue vision for Army Rangers isn’t as far along. But (lead scientist) Raj said the potential usefulness of the night vision technology is tremendous. It would allow soldiers to work in the dark without cumbersome night-vision goggles and to “see out the back of their heads,” he said.


How will soldiers function when they have 360 degree vision capability? At first glance, this seems like it could have some significant usability issues. In a rapid-response threat environment, will the extended vision aid in extending their situational awareness or could it potentially freeze them by incorporating too much input at a moment of high stress?

This post has been filed under News as Cyberpunk by SFAM.

Man-Machine Interface at the Silicon-Neuron Level

March 27, 2006

The Mundane-SF blog found a cool article that provides the results of new research into connecting neurons with silicon chips. The article titled “Researchers get neurons and silicon talking” posted on states the key finding as follows:

European researchers have created an interface between mammalian neurons and silicon chips. The development is a crucial first step in the development of advanced technologies that combine silicon circuits with a mammal’s nervous system…The ultimate applications are potentially limitless. In the long term it will possibly enable the creation of very sophisticated neural prostheses to combat neurological disorders. What’s more, it could allow the creation of organic computers that use living neurons as their CPU…

While the prosthesis aspects sound pretty similar to Kevin Warwick’s I, Cyborg project, the organic computer stuff is straight out of a post-human, cyberpunk future. Similar to how the cyborgs in Ghost in the Shell have access to vast amounds of data via a computer brain link, this technology holds extreme potential for changing society.

This post has been filed under News as Cyberpunk by SFAM.

Japanese Robot Innovation – Blocks Attempted Slaps!

March 19, 2006



Metatron found this. I realize this is old (June, 2005), but I just couldn’t resist posting it. Here at the 2005 World Expo in Japan, an android was revealed to the delight of all. “Shown with co-creator Hiroshi Ishiguru of Osaka University, the android is partially covered in skinlike silicone. Q1 is powered by a nearby air compressor, and has 31 points of articulation in its upper body.”


Most interesting about this android, is that one of its first programmed functions is to STOP PEOPLE FROM SLAPPING IT!!! :shock:

You gotta be kidding me! Who decides that this is the ‘critical function’ needed prior to release? I just GOTTA see the R&D focus groups that led to this capability. I can just imagine the write-up of the study participant research report. I’m guessing it looked something like this:

“Surveys show that the primary action most study participants attempted in interacting with ‘Q1′ – codenamed, ‘Jenny Cyberchick,’ was to continually slap her while shouting, ‘On your knees, Bitch!’ This action had the unintended side effect of tipping over the android, which self-destructed in an electrical ball of fire, often causing undue harm to the study participants. Even worse, in the few instances when Jenny Cyberchick survived the fall, study participants commented that ‘She just didn’t struggle enough to stimulate me.’

To ensure a viable marketplace, the results of the participant study report indicates that prior to final delivery, we must give Jenny Cyberchick the capability to fight back! Or, um…we could teach her to kneel.”

But their functionality is not totally devoted to stopping people from slapping her. Apparently other study participants were interested in throwing objects at her as well – these too she can block. :)

This post has been filed under News as Cyberpunk by SFAM.

Looks like our Gaia is doomed…

January 26, 2006

From Vanderworld, I found this sad piece of news: Looks like James Lovelock, the creator of the Gaia hypothesis, has determined that the earth as a living entity is doomed – that we have in effect exceeded its negative feedback (negating change from an initial goal state) processes that keep the world as a living system in balance.

Just as an aside – I truly doubt our computer models aren’t that accurate that we know this for certain. Then again, playing with the future of the earth is a bit dangerous for the truly insane steps we’ve been taking. There really is no insurance policy for that kind of thing if we end up exceeding the thresholds.

This post has been filed under News as Cyberpunk by SFAM.

Soldiers as Cyborgs

January 20, 2006

In another advance towards a real man-machine interface, the US Army is experimenting with connecting neuro-physiological sensors to soldiers to assist them in cognition and sensemaking during tense warfare situations:

The augmented cognition system uses neuro-physiological sensors that assess a warfighter’s attention by measuring and recording brain activity and body responses, including heart rate, and adapting to his preferred learning style.

Using that data, the system will then influence the way the soldier gets information, according to a Jan. 17 statement from the Army’s Natick Soldier Center in Natick, Mass. The technology will help individual warfighters determine the most important information available and decide the best course of action in varying environments.

“The technology we are developing will ultimately help warfighters when they are faced with information overload, especially under stress, and will significantly improve mission performance,” said Henry Girolamo, the Natick Soldier Center’s DARPA agent for the Army’s Augmented Cognition Program.

This truly is an example of cognition assistance outside the body a la Clark’s Natural Born Cyborg book, and is definitely a move towards more fully integrated man-machine entities.

This post has been filed under News as Cyberpunk by SFAM.