“For human enhancement, advances in robotics will also be important, as I found during a visit to Silicon Valley. These can provide much-needed physical and mechanical support in the case of the handicapped. If your best friend’s son was paraplegic, and you had the means to help, wouldn’t you? This is how Willow Garage, one of the biggest robot developers in Silicon Valley, got his inspiration. I was reminded of how Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone: he was originally attempting to find a hearing aid for his wife and daughter, who were deaf. In Willow Garage’s case, the friend’s child was entering adulthood without being able to care for himself. An institution loomed in his near future. Now, a humanlike robot stays at his side, allowing him to live a seminormal life; with the aid of his humanoid friend, the young man can manage on his own. Using a two-way video, he can also direct the mobile robot to navigate around another physical space and interact with other humans at the user’s behest.”
Neuroscientists identify key role of language gene
See on Scoop.it - The future of medicine and health
Neuroscientists have found that a gene mutation that arose more than half a million years ago may be key to humans’ unique ability to produce and understand speech. Researchers from MIT and several European universities have shown that the human version of a gene called Foxp2 makes it easier to transform new experiences into routine procedures. When they engineered mice to express humanized Foxp2, the mice learned to run a maze much more quickly than normal mice. The findings suggest that Foxp2 may help humans with a key component of learning language — transforming experiences, such as hearing the word “glass” when we are shown a glass of water, into a nearly automatic association of that word with objects that look and function like glasses, says Ann Graybiel, an MIT Institute Professor, member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research, and a senior author of the study. “This really is an important brick in the wall saying that the form of the gene that allowed us to speak may have something to do with a special kind of learning, which takes us from having to make conscious associations in order to act to a nearly automatic-pilot way of acting based on the cues around us,” Graybiel says. Wolfgang Enard, a professor of anthropology and human genetics at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Germany, is also a senior author of the study, which appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week. The paper’s lead authors are Christiane Schreiweis, a former visiting graduate student at MIT, and Ulrich Bornschein of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany. All animal species communicate with each other, but humans have a unique ability to generate and comprehend language. Foxp2 is one of several genes that scientists believe may have contributed to the development of these linguistic skills. The gene was first identified in a group of family members who had severe difficulties in speaking and understanding speech, and who were found to carry a mutated version of the Foxp2 gene. In 2009, Svante Pääbo, director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, and his team engineered mice to express the human form of the Foxp2 gene, which encodes a protein that differs from the mouse version by only two amino acids. His team found that these mice had longer dendrites — the slender extensions that neurons use to communicate with each other — in the striatum, a part of the brain implicated in habit formation. They were also better at forming new synapses, or connections between neurons. (via Neuroscientists identify key role of language gene — ScienceDaily)
The U.S. liver organ wait list has grown rapidly, while the number of organ donors has stagnated —- but the true need is almost 10x larger than the official
Organ-a collective initiative for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine — announced today (Oct. 16) the initial six teams competing for the $1 million New Organ Liver Prize, a global prize competition launched in December 2013 and sponsored by the Methuselah Foundation, a biomedical charity.
The award will go to “the first team that creates a regenerative or bioengineered solution that keeps a large animal alive for 90 days without native liver function,” with a deadline of the end of 2018. Future challenge prizes will cover additional whole organs.
The six teams represent scientists* from Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Northwick Park Institute for Medical Research, University College of London, University of Florida, University of Oxford, University of Pittsburgh, and Yokohama City University. More teams will be announced in the future.
“We need to make people as valuable as cars,” New Organ Founder and Methuselah CEO David Gobel told KurzweilAI. “Right now, there are no parts for people except from ‘junk yards’ from crash victims.” He said the choice of the liver makes sense because it’s “most likely to regenerate itself; it’s relatively homogenous; and it’s a key item in toxicity studies, extremely well characterized.
“This is an engineering problem. The more people who try, the more solutions.” Gobel mentioned vascularization (forming and maintaining blood vessels while preventing clotting) as a key problem (a solution for kidneys was mentioned on KurzweilAI last week).
See on kurzweilai.net
See on Scoop.it - Cyborg Lives
The idea is both horrifying and brilliant.
In a world where economy-class seats are getting thinner and lavatories are shrinking, any flight longer than an hour can feel like a traveling prison. Aircraft manufacturer Airbus is abetting the shift, but a recent patent filing shows it hasn’t forgotten about you, the passenger who actually has to sit in these miserable flying cells. It’s considering helmets that will let you forget you’re in an airplane at all.
Flying can be boring or stressful, which is why airlines provide music, movies and bad TV. The next step appears to be thoroughly immersing passengers in what they’re watching. “The helmet in which the passenger houses his/her head offers him/her sensorial isolation with regard to the external environment,” reads the patent filing.
The helmets feature headphones to provide music. You can watch movies (perhaps in 3D) on the “opto-electronic” screen or possibly through “image diffusion glasses.” If you want to get some work done, turn on the virtual keyboard, which appears on your tray, don a pair of motion capture gloves, and type away. The helmet could even pipe in different odors for an olfactory treat, and the whole thing would be nicely ventilated.
See on wired.com
See on Scoop.it - Knowmads, Infocology of the future
Squid and other cephalopods control their skin displays by contracting color-filled cells. A team of engineers attempted the same using elastomer and electrical pulses.
Displays are becoming flatter and flexible, so why not stretchable as well? A study published today in Nature Communications describes a paper-thin, elastic film that lights up when stimulated by an electric pulse. It’s a technology that could some day be used to make fold-up light sources, on-demand camouflage, or possibly even the Tron jumpsuit you’ve always wanted.
The engineers of the film were inspired by the skin of octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish, which can change color using tiny, ring-shaped structures called chromatophores. Each chromatophore is pigment-filled and ringed with tiny muscles. By contracting or expanding the chromatophores in different patterns, the cephalopods can create dazzling displays, or camouflage themselves from sight.
The new soft, stretchable elastomer is chemically combined with artificial, fluorescent-color versions of chromatophores, called mechanophores. Electrical pulses activate the mechanophores and create flourescant patterns. Different pulse strengths change the colors, and once the pulse is shut off the pattern instantly clears.
See on wired.com