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Biotech Science Technology

Building the Bionic Man 129

Posted by samzenpus
from the we-can-make-him-better dept.
nk497 writes "Will we soon be upgrading body parts like the components inside our PCs? 'Human enhancement' technologies are quickly evolving, making it easier to treat health conditions — and make us more powerful. Neural implants are already being used to restore vision, but in the future it could be used to give us better than 20/20 eyesight. Bionic arms will extend beyond prostheses, and be used to help boost our strength — handy for working in a warehouse and for soldiers. 'We use tools all the time to enhance our natural functions, and physical interaction is increasingly usurped by the virtual connections afforded by computers, smartphones and the internet,' said one researcher. 'So connecting these tools directly from the brain is perhaps not so far-fetched.'"
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Building the Bionic Man

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  • Sure, if you're rich (Score:5, Informative)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @11:15AM (#38877333)

    Bionic arms will extend beyond prostheses

    Pretty sure my insurance company is just going to give me the standard hook. And if you're uninsured--you'll get a hand-me-down wooden stick.

    • by Dyinobal (1427207)
      Nah your insurance company only covers a whisk. (+100 nerd points if anyone gets the reference)
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Ah, I see you have the arm that goes "BING!"

    • by Mitsoid (837831) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @11:40AM (#38877565)
      Yeah.. Insurance would never cover this...

      The cost of a few days in a hospital, the cutting-edge new technology... Costs of therapy to adjust to a new limb...

      will probably cost a few million dollars per limb...

      So yeah... 1% of the country could ever afford it if the wealth gap keeps growing like it is
    • by Anonymous Coward

      With all the legislation against piracy recently, I doubt people will get hooks.

      A small american flag prosthesis maybe?

      • by azalin (67640)
        It's not a hook it's a "C" as in constitution. Anyway wasn't there something on the right to bear arms or something? What about legs?
    • by Viol8 (599362)

      You pay your taxes so they can waste a trillion dollars doing nothing useful in Iraq apart from depose some old man who'd have been dead in 10 years anyway, but you have to take out insurance to cover hospital costs if you're ill else you can go die in an alley for all they care. I'm so glad I live in europe. Why you think your system of governence should be exported around the world beats the hell out of me.

      • by oodaloop (1229816)

        so they can waste a trillion dollars doing nothing useful in Iraq

        But then Europe complains we don't overthrow other dictators and wanted us to intervene in Libya. Seems we're damned if we do and damned if we don't.

        I'm so glad I live in europe.

        I'm glad you live in Europe too.

        beats the hell out of me.

        I'd love to. May i?

        • I'm genuinely curious. Have other countries really, truly explicitly asked the US to militarily intervene in the sovereign affairs of other nations? I often find myself a bit out of my depth with US/international relations, so I'd be much obliged if you could provide a link or two.

        • by sjames (1099) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @03:40PM (#38880693) Homepage

          Seems we're damned if we do and damned if we don't.

          If we're damned anyway, let's don't. It's cheaper!

          • by PeterWone (985476)
            Europe asks? Europe is no more half a dozen fatcats than the USA is half a dozen warmongers.
        • by tehcyder (746570)

          so they can waste a trillion dollars doing nothing useful in Iraq

          But then Europe complains we don't overthrow other dictators and wanted us to intervene in Libya. Seems we're damned if we do and damned if we don't.

          I don't think anyone in Europe wanted the US to intervene in Libya. Most people didn't want Europe to intervene in Libya either.

      • by Ihmhi (1206036)

        I think those who want to export American democracy are in the minority, at least in the elements of the country that doesn't watch FOX News. I understand that it's pretty much impossible to be isolationist anymore but I am generally of the opinion that we should stay out of the affairs of other countries.

        • I think those who want to export American democracy are in the minority, at least in the elements of the country that doesn't watch FOX News. I understand that it's pretty much impossible to be isolationist anymore but I am generally of the opinion that we should stay out of the affairs of other countries.

          hmmm...I don't watch Fox News, and I don't want to export American democracy. What I want is a stable, predictable planet, and that means a stable, predictable America. As long as American democracy remains under the control of large corporations, that will eventually happen. Most corporations want stability and predictability. Unfortunately for the planet, there are several American companies who have a vested interest in global instability, and have been actively lobbying for an aggressive American fo

    • Article reminds me of all those articles about "home robots" from the 80s, saying robots were the future and we'd all have robots in our homes in 10-20 years. So what do we have 20-30 yrs later? Roombas [wikipedia.org]

      It will take a long time before we're taking out our nice, natural, perfectly working body parts and replacing them with circuit boards and servos. Sure, if you lose a limb and have a few hundred thousand dollars (probably tens of millions with inflation) you'll be able to buy a awesome arm or leg in 10
      • by elrous0 (869638) *

        Article reminds me of all those articles about "home robots" from the 80s, saying robots were the future and we'd all have robots in our homes in 10-20 years. So what do we have 20-30 yrs later? Roombas

        Well, at least we got that movie Runaway [wikipedia.org] out of it. Of course, the home robots in that movie were a helluva lot cooler than a weak vacuum cleaner which can't even manage to navigate a over a seam in my carpet.

    • by azalin (67640)
      Well at least rich people (or those living in countries where universal healthcare is considered a basic right) in could enjoy it.
      There might even be a tv show like bionic makeover[tm]
      • by mr1911 (1942298)

        (or those living in countries where universal healthcare is considered a basic right) in could enjoy it.

        No problem. Universal healthcare is free for citizens and governments just print money. Free bionic accessories for everyone.

        At least the U.S. uses its astonishing debt and money printing abilities for humanitarian causes such as keeping large banks from suffering a dip in their profit margins.

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          At least the U.S. uses its astonishing debt and money printing abilities for humanitarian causes such as keeping large banks from suffering a dip in their profit margins.

          And prosecuting pointless wars for no strategic gain whatsoever, of course.

  • by Moheeheeko (1682914) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @11:25AM (#38877421)
    with built in "bn-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n"
  • by biodata (1981610) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @11:26AM (#38877433)
    Open the case and you void the warranty.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Even the prettiest of women now look like germ-laden toads at three feet distance...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @11:27AM (#38877453)
    I have been getting emails about male enhancement for years.
  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @11:29AM (#38877465) Homepage Journal

    I'm a cyborg; the lens in my left eye was replaced by a device called a CrystaLens, which gives it better than 20/20 vision at all distances. After needing thick glasses all my life, not even needing reading glasses at age 60 is nothing short of miraculous.

    However, had I not gotten a steroid-induced cataract that pretty much blinded that eye I'd not had the surgery, mostly because I wouldn't have been able to afford the surgery but partly because, well, would you let someone stick a needle in your eye if it wasn't an emergency and glasses or contacts would do the job?

    All surgey is dangerous. People have died in dentists' chairs. The difference between people and PCs is we can't just unscrew a panel, replace a part, and screw the panel back in. We have knives and needles and danger of infection and other possible complications, machinery doesn't. We have to heal, and often need some sort of therapy after surgery.

    A lot of folks who have had hips, knees, and other joints replaced must suffer additional pain and surgery because of faulty parts; there are several class action lawsuits going on now over defective parts.

    However, rather than bionic parts replacement with enhancements for perfectly healthy body parts (which, as I mention, is dangerous), things like third arms, exoskeletons that allow us to lift hundreds of pounds, are already in development.

    Bionics will most likely be for replacement of existing, faulty human parts rather than enhancing or "upgrading" human tissues unless we get McCoy's knifeless surgery.

    • by compro01 (777531)

      The difference between people and PCs is we can't just unscrew a panel, replace a part, and screw the panel back in

      We also generally can't power the machine off while we're doing that either.

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        Well, they sort of can. When I had a tonsellictomy at age 6 they used ether as an anesthetic -- AKA automotive starting fluid. Nasty shit, horrible trip, and talking to others who went under the knife with ether is was the same terrible nightmare.

        However, when I had a hemmoroidectomy in 2002 the anestegiologist said "OK, you're going to sleep now." I replied after a few seconds "Uh, it's not working." He laughed -- "we're finished." They may not yet be able to shut us all the way off and not kill us, but th

        • by mr1911 (1942298)

          They may not yet be able to shut us all the way off and not kill us, but they can put us in hibernate mode. You don't even know you were unconscious!

          Cool story bro, but you kind of missed the point. They didn't shut you off, they just removed your awareness.

          Maybe a car analogy will help. Your surgery was like working on a car that was idling in neutral. Your anesthesiologist was maintaining your airway and monitoring your vitals. If you were shut off, he wouldn't have been necessary.

          There have been surgeries where hypothermia is induced to effectively shut the body down, but such a procedure is far from having fantastic results on a regular b

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          anestegiologist

          I had to look this up as I thought it must be some extravagant typo, but it turns out it's the US word for what we call an anaesthetist in the UK.

      • by HiThere (15173)

        Actually, to weaken the point a bit, we essentially CAN "turn the patient off". It is, however, a rather extreme procedure, so it's rarely used. It involves hypothermia. You sure wouldn't get it for a simple operation like a tonsillectomy, or having your gall bladder or appendix removed. Surgery on you heart MIGHT call for it, but it still usually doesn't.

    • "exoskeletons that allow us to lift hundreds of pounds"

      I already can lift a few hundred pounds thanks to the training i've done in the gym for the 10 years. If these devices are going to be taken seriously they need to REALLY enhance strength , not just turn it up a notch or two. I'm talking about the strength to lift up boulders or cars etc, not just being able to draw at arm wrestling with the the local pub bouncer.

      • by chill (34294)

        That isn't going to be as much a mass and leverage issue as it is a strength issue. And a toughness of skin issue, as you focus all that weight on a very narrow area where your fingers wrap around the edge of the car bumper.

        • That, and it's really about the strength of the whole skeleton. Bionic arm? No, thanks, unless it comes with a bionic spine as well. Lifting hundreds of pounds is as much about your back as your arms. Legs, knees, back, shoulders, etc. Making one excessively strong compared to the others just shifts your injury to the next weakest link.

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        I already can lift a few hundred pounds thanks to the training i've done in the gym for the 10 years

        I think you've wandered into the wrong forum, mate. Jockdot.com is down the corridor.

    • 20/20 is just average vision, I believe. I was tested some years ago with 20/13 in one eye, and 20/14 in the other. That means I could see at 20 feet what the average person had to stand 13 or 14 feet away in order to see. I'm now quite a bit older, and I doubt that my distance vision is still that good, although I suspect it's still better than 20/20. (My close-up vision, on the other hand...let's just say I've had reading glasses for a number of years.)

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        I don't know if it's average or median, but 20/20 is considered "normal". Most folks wearing contacts or glasses have better than 20/20 when wearing the lenses, and baseball players with 20/20 get LASIK surgery to make their vision better.

        You need reading glasses because as the eye ages, the focusing lens (not the cornea, the lens behind the iris) hardens. That's what they replaced in my eye, the artificial lens sits on struts inside the lens capsule, allowing the focusing muscles to move it back and forth

  • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @11:30AM (#38877477) Homepage

    I'm not sure if to go for the aggressive defence system, or the spy drone in my cranial slot.

  • If you're going to show how strong some augmentation suit is, showing the wearing carrying 3 mid sized bags of cement or an empty roadies case which any reasonably strong man could handle is hardly the killer image. Show them lifting a car one handed FFS!

    • by jockeys (753885)
      agreed. those look about like 25# bags (~11-12kg) so 75# total. most teenagers with a strong back can easily haul that around, having a full grown man in an exosuit doing it is ridiculous. while the suit might not be able to handle cars, you'd think he'd at least be toting the bodyweight of a grown man.
  • by james_van (2241758) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @11:41AM (#38877585)
    the interfacing between the brain and a computer is still a sticking point. granted, science is currently making some good progress, but we're still a ways out. once that gets solved reliably, things should get fun. especially if the interface has standardized connections and a publicly available API - realistically, you'd be able to by "bolt-on", disposable prosthetics at best buy someday (but snobs like me will buy them from newegg)
    • where everything is made out of meat balls.
    • by Shotgun (30919)

      No. The real sticking point is being able to power them for any reasonable amount of time.

      • I'd disagree with you there, at least partially. It really depends on the type of prosthetic (arm, hand, leg, etc) and the application. A basic arm designed for regular, everyday use, minimal load bearing, could go for the better part of a day on current battery technology. However, you are correct for things like legs, that are in use often and are load bearing. If anything, power and interface are "the two sticking points".
  • We are the Borg...erm Human. You will be assimilated. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile.
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      I beat you to it, [slashdot.org] but I wasn't joking. You will be assimilated. Not only is resistance futile, there will be no resistance. You will beg to become one of us. Blind or cyborg? Wheelchair or cyborg? Your choice... a futile choice.

      I know quite a few cyborgs. You can't even tell us from normal, unenhanced humans.

      • by echo_kmem (982727)
        Rats! You and that Bionic eye have bested me! Bah! =) Actually, Bionic hands would be rather 'handy' in a lot of ways.
  • by RogueWarrior65 (678876) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @11:41AM (#38877599)

    All of this science-fiction turned reality is only as good as the power source. Jet packs, Aliens-style power loaders, autonomous humanoid robots, exoskeletons, electric cars. All useless without the über battery and we humans have been failing on that for decades.

    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @12:09PM (#38878009) Homepage Journal

      My bionic implant uses my eye's natural focusing muscle for power, and it works better than YOUR natural, unenhanced eye. And batteries and magnet tech and lower energy needs have been improving greatly over the last few decades. My old Star Tak analog phone lasted a day if I was lucky, my newer Motorola has a smaller battery and lasts several days. I think you're a bit too pessimistic.

      And this IS science fiction turned reality -- we're in the 21st century, man! When Star Trek first came on the air when I was 14, there were no communicators (cell phones), flat screen displays, iPads (or "padds"), doors that opened automatically, McCoy's medical readouts (which we've surpassed), voice-activated computers (my Acer has that feature), space shuttles... to young folks there's nothing futuristic about STOS except the transporter, faster than light travel, and matter replicators. Back then it was all impossible fantasy.

      • by alexo (9335)

        And batteries and magnet tech and lower energy needs have been improving greatly over the last few decades. My old Star Tak analog phone lasted a day if I was lucky, my newer Motorola has a smaller battery and lasts several days. I think you're a bit too pessimistic.

        Your Motorola lasting several days on standby is a technological achievement but it is still way off the mark.
        What we want is battery tech that will let the most powerful smartphones and "gaming" laptops last several days at full load .

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          I use the newer phone a lot more than the old analog phone. Plus, it had a very small (about 1 cm x 4 cm) screen that only displayed numbers, while the new one has a color video screen and backlit keys; the backlighting takes juice, too. I use the newer phone for a lot more than talking; often I'll read the newspaper on it or look something up on google. Despite spending far less time on standby and it's being actively used far more, it lasts 3 times as long.

          • by alexo (9335)

            I do not dispute your assertion.
            I just say that it is not the technological leap that people were waiting for.

    • by azalin (67640)
      For larger parts (arms, legs) there should be enough room for a decent exchangeable lithium based battery pack. Add a USB plug for charging and you're ready to go. Ok the USB part was a joke, but the rest wouldn't be to hard to pull off.
      • Why wouldn't they just run off of your body's energy [smithsonianmag.com]?
      • Perhaps but an average human forearm can curl 50 lbs. A motor that can do that might draw about 70 amps. Sure, lithium packs can deliver that kind of current but the capacity isn't there to be able to do this very long. A Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 has a power cell that lasts 120 years.

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          A Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 has a power cell that lasts 120 years.

          Uh, hello? Why don't we just use those then?

          • Well, since the unit wasn't sent back until 2029, I figure we have a few years left to invent it. Then again, Skynet should have been active since 1997 so something has messed with that timeline.

    • by cpghost (719344)
      Right! And the time to charge the battery matters as well. The ideal power supply would be some yet to be invented new generation ultra capacitor buffer as frontend to an efficient chemical battery backend that you could charge by briefly touching an 800.000 Volt line with a telescope antenna (say with 1.21 Gigawatt). But this ain't gonna happen anytime soon, especially not with this hypothetical ultra capacitor tagged in your body!
      • Quite true. That's one of the things that sucks about the current crop of electric cars. IMHO, if you want to really sell an electric car, it must have the following features:

        1) 300-500 mile range.
        2) Be able to carry four adults with all their luggage for that range.
        3) Recharge time of less than 5 minutes.
        4) Not look like a total dorkmobile. Other than the Tesla roadster, every design looks like something a communist country would come up with. Bleah.
        5) Here's the real challenge: Be able to charge the t

    • by 0xG (712423)
      I'll just drag around an extension cord, thanks.
  • by rubycodez (864176) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @11:43AM (#38877619)
    isn't that wonderful, the thought of employers requiring those in manual labor to get cyborged to get a job. I know what is wonderful, the thought of fat cat oligarchs getting burked by a bionic arm......
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Seriously, I don't care about mechanical parts. Wake me when I can get my arms replaced with real tentacles.

    • Well, at least we can get the "paying for that expensive augmentation" part covered.

      Even if your almost non-existant health insurance refuses to pay for anything more expensive than a primitive metal hook, you can still make all the money you need to pay back your tentacled implant by working in the Japanese porn industry.

  • ... but don't want to spend a lot of money. [youtube.com]
  • by wzinc (612701)
    But, I'm already more powerful than you could possibly imagine!
  • I think this is all great news and a wonderful idea. We as humans are able to overcome mother nature and bend the world to our needs. However...this article talks about a future, which is certainly coming, where technology shapes our world. Where does the energy come from to power all this? I came to a revelation recently. I've watched all the documentaries, so I knew mentally that this was coming. But oil is coming to an end. Coal is coming to an end. Fossil fuels are coming to an end. I recently watched
  • by gmuslera (3436) *
    Another area where trivial patents, copyrights, company policies, government intervention and remote disabling could reign.
  • I'm going to get a heads-up-display installed over the lens of my eyes and I want it to show me all kinds of numerical data and probabilities whenever I look at something. Then I want an attachment so I can snap a fishing rod to my forehead and I will use it to catch more fish.
  • Can't wait until my health insurance company and employer weigh the cost/benefit ratio for component replacement versus end of lifing the whole device.

    "I'm sorry, you've totalled out our potential benefit from your continued existence."

  • Your eye has not been authorized, please, visit Microsoft.com to authorize your eye.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I think some people are over-thinking it with regards to bionics. Some replacements can and should be directly connected, like the replacement lenses for eyes, but beyond that, and excepting for other issues of biological senses being damaged, it's just about training yourself to use what senses and body parts that are naturally attached to make use of whatever's going to be "connected" to your body. For example: In effect, your cell phone is a cybernetic enhancement. How many of us twitch and check/send

  • ... I didn't imagine they'd go this direction with it though.
  • In the future, I suppose sex between cyborgs will suffer new challenges, and the term "locking bumpers" will acquire a new meaning. Either that or we'll need a new USB standard,

  • and SOPA/PIPA have their way, they'll probably ensure you get a Hook [wikipedia.org] Prosthesis!

  • Just a meme from a game? I think not. Aside from the vendor lock-in that you are imposing on your own body, you will be exponentially widening the gap between the have's and the havenot's. That always becomes pot that boils over and leads to blood shed. Purity First :-)
  • all I do is sit around in my living room and play video games anyway. What do I need to be able to lift 300kg over my head, or have night vision for?

    this seems like a solution that is crying out for a problem.

  • They will shut your eyes off.

To be a kind of moral Unix, he touched the hem of Nature's shift. -- Shelley

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