Practical Neurotechnology

Friday, January 18, 2008 | Bionic eyes: Contact lenses with circuits, lights a possible platform for superhuman vision | University Week, Vol. 25, No. 12 | University of Washington

Contact lenses with metal connectors for electronic circuits were safely worn by rabbits in lab tests. The lenses were manufactured at the microscopic level by researchers at the UW.

Contact lenses with metal connectors for electronic circuits were safely worn by rabbits in lab tests.

Movie characters from the Terminator to the Bionic Woman use bionic eyes to zoom in on far-off scenes, have useful facts pop into their field of view, or create virtual crosshairs. Off the screen, virtual displays have been proposed for more practical purposes -- visual aids to help vision-impaired people, holographic driving control panels and even as a way to surf the Web on the go.

The device to make this happen may be familiar. Engineers at the UW have for the first time used manufacturing techniques at microscopic scales to combine a flexible, biologically safe contact lens with an imprinted electronic circuit and lights.

"Looking through a completed lens, you would see what the display is generating superimposed on the world outside," said Babak Parviz, a UW assistant professor of electrical engineering. "This is a very small step toward that goal, but I think it's extremely promising." The results were presented today at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' international conference on Micro Electro Mechanical Systems by Harvey Ho, a former graduate student of Parviz's now working at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, Calif. Other co-authors are Ehsan Saeedi and Samuel Kim in the UW's electrical engineering department and Tueng Shen in the UW Medical Center's ophthalmology department.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Monkey’s Thoughts Propel Robot, a Step That May Help Humans - New York Times
More good work from the Nicoleilis group at Duke. Premotor movements of a walking monkey activate leg motions of a robot. The next step in this progression might be to balance them using the monkey's movements...

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Remote "whiskers" for long-distance haptic sensing (via IR!)

Quite clever; I should have come up with this myself.  I did suggest something like this for a haptic cane for the blind, but nothing as clever as 360* IR "whiskers".

New Scientist Technology Blog: Head-mounted device is the cat's whiskers
"...Check out this head-mounted haptic device developed by researchers at the University of Tokyo in Japan. It lets a wearer "feel" their surroundings from a distance, roughly as if they had several long whiskers sticking out of the head. At least, that's what the researchers say.

A series of infrared sensors positioned around the device act as invisible whisker or antenna sensors. When these detect an object, a small motor vibrates on the appropriate side of the wearer's head to alert them."

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Rehab Chicago + Ambient put out subvocally-directed wheelchair

Thursday, August 02, 2007

rat neuron grid trained to pilot f22 simulator

Why this brain flies on rat cunning - Science -
It sounds like science fiction: a brain nurtured in a Petri dish learns to pilot a fighter plane as scientists develop a new breed of "living" computer. But in groundbreaking experiments in a Florida laboratory that is exactly what is happening.

The "brain", grown from 25,000 neural cells extracted from a single rat embryo, has been taught to fly an F-22 jet simulator by scientists at the University of Florida.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

BCI hits Nature

A rather slack-jawed article from CNN Money, over-eager and misleading, points out that the latest implanted electrode array work by Brown-affiliated Cyberkinetics was just published in Nature:

"If you think that's mind-blowing, try to wrap your head around the sensational research that's been done on the brain of one Matthew Nagle by scientists at Brown University and three other institutions, in collaboration with Foxborough, Mass.-based company Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems. The research was published for the first time last week in the British science journal Nature..."

Regrettably, they don't tell us what the basis of the publication is, since everything they mention with Nagle seems to have been done already (remote control of robot arms, learning computer/TV control, etc).  Still, good to see BCI/MMI getting some prestigious and mainstream science press.

To their lack of credit, they also mention a patent by Sony on beaming data directly into the mind using ultrasonic signals.  I seem to remember that the patent was widely derided, pure patent speculation rather than something that had been designed or built.  A DARPA scientist named Stu Wolf also mentions that headband-based interfaces are likely to be popular 20 years in the future.  Doesn't sound farfetched to me, although EEG's got a way to go.

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Neural systems are fluid, even when no learning is taking place

Brain uses both neural 'teacher' and 'tinkerer' in learning - MIT News Office

This seems to be the first publication confirming a property of the brain that's been widely suspected by neuroscientists for years, namely, that neurons change function and behavior over time:

"In earlier work, Bizzi and colleagues measured neural activities in the motor cortex while monkeys manipulated a handle to move a cursor to targets on a screen. In control experiments, the monkeys had to move the cursor to targets in the same way they had been trained. In learning experiments, the monkeys had to adapt their movements to compensate for novel forces applied to the handle.

The scientists found that even when the monkeys were performing the familiar control task, their neural activities gradually changed over the course of the session."

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Engineered memories in a petri dish

Ars Technica story and paper at Physical Review E.
A team at Tel Aviv University has managed to imprint a persistent memory state lasting days into a set of neurons:
"We show that using local chemical stimulations it is possible to imprint persisting (days) multiple memories (collective modes of neuron firing) in the activity of cultured neural networks. Microdroplets of inhibitory antagonist are injected at a location selected based on real-time analysis of the recorded activity. The neurons at the stimulated locations turn into a focus for initiating synchronized bursting events (the collective modes) each with its own specific spatiotemporal pattern of neuron firing."