Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cyberpunk Sunday 008 - skin tech, t-cells, brainwaves and printers oh my!

Well the last few weeks there have been some really damned amazing stories coming out. It's really hard to decide on which ones to cover here. But at least it gives me plenty of material for the next installment.

This first one was sent to me by a fellow Kultist named Craig Toehill. I had seen a few articles on this already but the one he sent was by far one of the better. Electronic skin grafts, well not quite a graft but an overlay of circuits onto your skin. With the developments and stretchable and bendable technologies (I've covered a bit of the bendies before) this seems to be a natural mix. Attaching the super thin circuits to your skin through a method that, get this, is exactly like putting on a temporary tattoo. They are so thin you can even put an actual temporary tattoo over the top to hide the attachment.

Tons of uses for this. Currently the first to mind for development are in the medical field replacing all the long cords and sticky pads of monitoring equipment. It would allow the patient a lot more mobility and a lot less discomfort. Other ideas come to my mind also, like an old idea I had for a wearable headset that just sticks onto your skin. I'll let you read on this some more and tell me what idea you have for it.

Electronic skin grafts.

Next up is a US study presented in the New England Journal of Medicine. It had my jaw dropping at its implications and the groundwork it helps lay for Biopunk and transhumanism. By modifying the T-cells of patients into tumor killing predators they have successfully wiped leukemia out of three patients who have now lived cancer free for a year. Yeah bioengineering at it's finest. Let me pull up my favorite quote from the article:

"Within three weeks, the tumors had been blown away, in a way that was much more violent than we ever expected," said senior author Carl June of the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania.

Yeah, violently attacked the tumors. I'm pretty sure this is still a rather tedious and expensive process as the cells would have to be tailor made from the individual patient. But this is a success story which is exactly what they need to get more funding to keep working in this direction.

Modified killer t-cells

Now for a few years there has been work with a brain-computer interface with quite a bit of success. They managed to get it down to where the person could operate a computer, although rather slowly. This is a tiny stepping stone into the direction of one of the least likely cyberpunk ideas, netrunning or full computer interface. But now they've done gone and took a step further by integrating it into an online virtual environment. They hooked it up to Second Life. While it's still a slow and hard to control interface and there is a lot of work to be done with the sensors and pads that will read your brainwaves (or maybe not... hmmm... that stick on technology that I listed up above) since it's hard to keep them positioned right on a persons head. But the future is looking virtual.

Brain wave interface with Second Life.

Okay and last but not certainly least the 3D printer. These have been in the tech news for a while here lately but this video gives a really good layman's terms description of how it works and shows them scanning in and 'printing' a wrench. Thanks to Sean Barton for linking to this article now it's my turn to share it with a few folks. Personally I believe in a decade or so this will start to revolutionize some of the commercial industries just like CnC machines have done in the past. It also fits the description of the microfactories out of Cybergeneration.

See the 3-D printer in action.

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