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Archive for the ‘singularity’ Category

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At the recent meeting of the American Association for the Advancement for Science in Boston, neuroscientists outlined several lines of promising Brain–computer interface research. Advances in microprocessors, computing, and materials science, for example, have facilitated the development of “epidermal electronics,” which combine wireless communications, neural sensors, and other medical sensors into patches small and flexible enough to serve as temporary tattoos.

Read more: http://goo.gl/97eki

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Image credit: Inserm / P. Latron

This is possible through the development of a “simplified artificial brain” that reproduces certain types of so-called “recurrent” connections observed in the human brain. The artificial brain system enables the robot to learn, and subsequently understand, new sentences containing a new grammatical structure. It can link two sentences together and even predict how a sentence will end before it is uttered. More info: http://bit.ly/15soo00

Journal article: Real-Time Parallel Processing of Grammatical Structure in the Fronto-Striatal System: A Recurrent Network Simulation Study Using Reservoir Computing. PLoS ONE, 2013 http://bit.ly/Xj3Zqz

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Here Swartz describes the nature of the shift from centralized one-to-many systems, such as broadcast television, to the decentralized many-to-many topography of network communication. The end of scarcity in transmission capacity poses the question of how to finance information production and how people can find their way through the abundance; search engines and collaborative filtering mechanisms have become both essential tools and points of control. These systems paradoxically exercise a renewed centralizing influence due to the social entrenchment of the ‘hit’ phenomenon. Can technical design help to counteract this tendency?

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A postdoctoral student has developed a technique for implanting thought-controlled robotic arms and their electrodes directly to the bones and nerves of amputees, a move which he is calling “the future of artificial limbs”. The first volunteers will receive their new limbs early in 2013.

More info: http://bit.ly/SqVkQW

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The subConch is a completely new musical instrument that can be played by using the force of your mind alone. The instrument, a conch shaped metallic sculpture, is hung from the ceiling in three steel wires. Along with the conch comes a headset that you, the performer, must wear. The headset reads the player’s mind using EEG technology allowing control over pitch and other audio characteristics. To gain this control the user must sit down and follow a three minute training program. When finished he or she will have the ability of complete cognitive control. Read more…

The subConch is an interactive installation currently in development by Mats J. Sivertsen. The installation will be exhibited in art galleries and used in musical performances.

Follow the progress on the blog pages
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Read the artist statement
View the video documentation
Report bugs and comment on the software

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Moth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Police release a swarm of robot-moths to sniff out a distant drug stash. Rescue robot-bees dodge through earthquake rubble to find survivors.

These may sound like science-fiction scenarios, but they are the visions of Japanese scientists who hope to understand and then rebuild the brains of insects and programme them for specific tasks.

Ryohei Kanzaki, a professor at Tokyo University‘s Research Centre for Advanced Science and Technology, has studied insect brains for three decades and become a pioneer in the field of insect-machine hybrids.

His original and ultimate goal is to understand human brains and restore connections damaged by diseases and accidents — but to get there he has taken a very close look at insects’ “micro-brains”.

The human brain has about 100 billion , or nerve cells, that transmit signals and prompt the body to react to stimuli. Insects have far fewer, about 100,000 inside the two-millimetre-wide (0.08 inch) brain of a silkmoth.

But size isn’t everything, as Kanzaki points out.

Insects’ tiny brains can control complex aerobatics such as catching another bug while flying, proof that they are “an excellent bundle of software” finely honed by hundreds of millions of years of evolution, he said.

For example, male silkmoths can track down females from more than a kilometre (half a mile) away by sensing their odour, or pheromone.

Kanzaki hopes to artificially recreate insect brains.

“Supposing a brain is a jigsaw-puzzle picture, we would be able to reproduce the whole picture if we knew how each piece is shaped and where it should go,” he told AFP.

“It will be possible to recreate an insect brain with electronic circuits in the future. This would lead to controlling a real brain by modifying its circuits,” he said.

Kanzaki’s team has already made some progress on this front.

In an example of ‘rewriting’ insect brain circuits, Kanzaki’s team has succeeded in genetically modifying a male silkmoth so that it reacts to light instead of odour, or to the odour of a different kind of moth.

Such modifications could pave the way to creating a robo-bug which could in future sense illegal drugs several kilometres away, as well as landmines, people buried under rubble, or toxic gas, the professor said.

All this may appear very futuristic — but then so do the insect-robot hybrid machines the team has been working on since the 1990s.

In one experiment, a live male moth is strapped onto what looks like a battery-driven toy car, its back glued securely to the frame while its legs move across a free-spinning ball.

Researchers motivate the insect to turn left or right by using female odour.

The team found that the moth can steer the car and quickly adapt to changes in the way the vehicle operates — for example by introducing a steering bias to the left or right similar to the effect of a flat tyre.

In another, more advanced, test, the team severed a moth’s head and mounted it onto the front of a similar vehicle.

They then directed similar odour stimuli to the contraption which the insect’s still-functioning antennae and brain picked up.

Researchers recorded the motor commands issued by nerve cells in the brain, which were transmitted to steer the vehicle in real time.

The researchers also observed which neuron responds to which stimulus, making them visible using fluorescent markers and 3-D imaging.

The team has so far obtained data on 1,200 neurons, one of the world’s best collections on a single species.

Kanzaki said that animals, like humans, are proving to be highly adaptable to changing conditions and environments.

“Humans walk only at some five kilometres per hour but can drive a car that travels at 100 kilometres per hour. It’s amazing that we can accelerate, brake and avoid obstacles in what originally seem like impossible conditions,” he said.

“Our brain turns the car into an extension of our body,” he said, adding that “an insect brain may be able to drive a car like we can. I think they have the potential.

“It isn’t interesting to make a robo-worm that crawls as slowly as the real one. We want to design a machine which is far more powerful than the living body.”

(c) 2009 AFP

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