The Six Million Dollar Man's robotic arm worked as seamlessly as his natural one. But in the real world, robotic limbs have limited motions and the user can't feel what he or she is "touching." a new approach using optical fibers implanted around nerves could transmit more data and let prosthetics speak to the brain.
Previously, scientists surgically connected electrodes to the nervous system, but they seemed to harm the body's tissues, making the implant fail within months. In 2005, scientists discovered that they could stimulate a neuron to send a message by shining infrared light on it. Last September, DARPA, the Pentagon's R&D branch, awarded $4 million to a project led by Southern Methodist University engineers to attempt to connect nerves to artificial limbs using fiber optics.
The team suspects that flexible glass or polymer fiber optics will be more flesh-friendly than rigid electrodes. In addition, optical fibers transmit several signals at once, carrying 10 times as much data as their electrical counterparts. "Our goal is to do for neural interfaces what fiber optics did for the telecom industry," says electrical engineer Marc Christensen, who is leading the SMU group. Transmitting more information faster should give bionic limbs more lifelike movements.
This month, the team will implant optical fibers to stimulate a rat's rear leg. If it works, Christensen says, in about a decade, robotic arms could be as graceful as Steve Austin's six-million-dollar one.
How Artificial Nerves Work
Sensing The Limb
When someone's prosthetic hand touches a ball, for example, it would trigger an optical fiber in the arm to pulse a pattern of infrared light like Morse code. These light messages stimulate a sensory nerve to fire in a similar pattern, instructing the brain that the hand is feeling a round object.
Moving The Limb
Thinking about squeezing the ball sends electrical impulses from the brain to a motor nerve. When it reaches the optical fiber implanted in the nerve, the signal deforms thousands of the fiber's spheres. This changes the pattern of light in the fiber, which instructs the prosthetic hand to grip the ball.
Soon, amputees will consider us full-bodied people handicapped due to advancements in prosthetics. I can't imagine it will be that far into the future when people will have their limbs surgically amputated to replace them with super advanced prosthetics.
I'm curious what you mean by "super advanced?" It seems to me that robotics is simply trying to imitate human physiology and anatomy. Is there something more you would like your prosthetic arm to do?
The human body is far from perfect in means of strength and functionality. Prosthetic limbs would be able to be stronger and faster, possibly made with self repairing materials that far exceed human tissue's ability to heal.
@Westinghouse...I want it to fire mah lazer wouldn't you?
lol ghost in the shell here we come
"The human body is far from perfect in means of strength and functionality. Prosthetic limbs would be able to be stronger and faster, possibly made with self repairing materials that far exceed human tissue's ability to heal"
wearing football armor is stronger than just the plain body but no one will wear that, whose going to replace their arms for slight improvements? how often do you run into something too heavy to move, or cant do something because your too slow?
Wearing football gear, not armor, makes the body more impact resistant, but it's bulky, uncomfortable and would look odd. Who said anything about slight improvements? I doubt anyone would replace a perfectly functional limb for something hardly better. Prosthetics of the future will probably be able to surpass human strength by manyfold.
"how often do you run into something too heavy to move, or cant do something because your too slow?"
Why do you think we need heavy machinery? Many people run into things too heavy to move, or can't do things because they are too slow all the time. Thats why we have machines to do that for us. If we could have biotics/prosthetics whatever you want to call them, we wouldn't need that. Soldiers would benefit. Have you been shot in the arm? I haven't but I bet it hurts like hell. If you get shot in a prosthetic arm, odds are you'd be able to function a lot better than if you got shot in your silly human arm. How about rich people with certain hobbies such as rock climbing. How much do you think someone could benefit from having an iron grip when on the side of a cliff?
Given enough money and higher than average advantages, I bet people would jump all over the chance.
Although I see your point, I think there's still a flaw in the idea. The speed of a prosthetic is limited by the nervous system and your ability to process. I won't have significantly faster reflexes with a prosthetic than I will with my human arm because I have to react first. My brain must process the information before I tell my arm or legs what to do.
Now in terms of running faster because prosthetics may give you a springier step, sure it's possible. But I doubt you'll have people dropping their vehicles for a brisk jog to work instead. But the significant amount of strength it takes a human to lift a vehicle or an elephant, I doubt we'll see that. You'll still be limitied by whatever human structure you have left. I.e. lifting a vehicle will probably give you severe spinal problems later.
At some point, there will have to be regulations. I bet we will possibly see increased crime rates and new sorts of crime as well.
Settle down. You both are right and you both are wrong.
It is all a question of time. JC is right that the majority of people will get prosthetics, but it will be farther in the future when, as you alluded to Anubis, people will get a prosthetics 'package'.
If you get something like the 'heavy lifting' package then it will come with better arms, legs, spine, hips, shoulders, neck, and core muscles.
Just like you wouldn't sell just a speaker and call it the Ipod 5, you would probably get a packaged deal with lots of multifunction.
Sorry, but no one in their right mind would go and have their own limbs removed, no matter how far in the future you look.
I strongly believe that some kind of exoskeleton robotic suit would be the option. When your finished with it, you take it off and go about your business.
There are many people out there who are not "in their right mind". I can completely imagine that some people would go all out with artificial limbs. At the same time there will probably be full exoskeletons and partial exoskeletons that interact with full artificial limbs, there's no reason that any of this needs to be exclusive.
What I am really more interested in is the ability to extend your body's functionality beyond what it has been so far capable of doing. Another story this week shows that your mind can accommodate different body plans. 3 arms anyone? What about a RF receiver/transmitter? what about a USB or Ethernet connector? Thunderbolt? that is already a fibre-optic technology.
The human brain is so malleable that there is really no reason why we can't connect ourselves directly to the Matrix... Oops I meant the internet..
I think I agree with All4it on this one.
From what I've read about the latest advancements in AI and "consciousness" the researchers believe the body-sensory awareness is crucial to defining the type of consciousness that exists in the mind.
A human who is born with a natural body develops their sense of self and their consciousness around their body.
If they mature as an individual in their natural body, their "mind" is shaped by their world-experience through that body. That body essentially makes them the human they are.
If that human then goes and chops off all of their limbs, and ties in new sensors so they can smell Gamma rays (or whatever)... they will no longer be the same "mind" either. They will be a completely different sentient being--one who's world-view is shaped literally by their new world perspective and sensory data.
Since humans are such social creatures, I think there would be huge social pressure to prevent people from just voluntarily replacing their bodies with cyborg parts and at the same time altering their personalities--nobody would want their spouse to come home from the cyborg lab and suddenly be a completely different person.
The idea of having "robo-suits" like the ones they have in Japan for enhancing your human abilities temporarily is the most likely outcome, IMO.
cyborgs are become reality, but it will take time, jc bullen should be first in line to get a new head, oops, that wasn't nice, sorry, just IMO
I would argue that even the "package" replacements mentioned above are merely an interim solution, and might not even happen BECAUSE....what's really coming is more like the ability to link your brain to whatever construct/body you want to operate at the moment. More like the recent Bruce Willis movie (forget the name) where we often inhabit/control machines/robots via a semi-direct connection into our brains while our bodies remain stationary/resting somewhere.
Certainly people who lose limbs due to accidents would use direct control prostheses but no need to actually cut one off after a certain point in time to gain some specific benefit because you can just buy a whole body/machine and inhabit that instead :) Much more palatable to most people, I bet.
Who's saying they have to be replacements? I want a few extra robot arms! I mean, what could possibly go wrong? <Insert various movie references here>
I could just see everyone who was interested hacking off an arm or leg, just so they too could hsve the newest gadgets built in.
Look it slices , dices, and juliens, and it even has a screwdriver with a multi angle attachment. And if you ordernow, you too can have it in your own choice of color, deathly pale, gleaming black, or infection red.
But serioudsly, I could see interchangable hands or something for different jobs, but as long as it doesnt end up like the Bionic commando, we're all good
If we reach a point where folk are replacing body parts with superior prosthetics or exoskeletons, or wirelessly controlling robot bodies - then we might as well transfer our minds onto hard disks and live in a virtual world, maybe call it the matrix... : )
Technology is just a mere imitation or an attempt to replicate the biologic world already does. Biology in my opinion is not done and is constantly improving itself via evolution. A microorganism in of itself is simple, but now look at a human. A human is a complex structure of living cells. I don't think the future is in technology. Instead I think the future is in Human Biological Engineering or Enhancement if people want to talk about improving the human race. It would be stupid to think biology is at its limit, far from it.
I agree, except for the part about microorganisms being simple. They're about as complex as anything we've designed, and much more efficient.
@JCbullen and @Westinghouse
I have always been interested in technology (which is why im here) and find myself from time to time wondering what it would be like if I lost a limb and in these daydreams if you will I always imagined I would modify my new limb the way people modify cars or computers for a more custom personal feel.
@Atomicdoorknob yes I have also imagined lazers lol
hi,just want to say hi,1 of a million of nobodies hi how goes it,I'll start that way.I'am 26 yrs old i was born with a defect in my right leg known as a backwardsclubedfoot that effects my right foot an leg only,while my left leg-n-foot remain in the norm,W/the exception that the left leg would out grow the right leg.So stunting the growth of the left leg was the next step.There is no cafemuscle too support the right leg so at a very young age I chose to not go for leg extention in right leg,nor allow amputation,So if there is a scientist who will leap foward and do fiber-optic-bionics on a leg PLZ contact me.I watched my brother die I.C.U. wondering if his leg i know he would have given to me if it would work he would have.the same hair,eye,an skin tone,it probaly would have worked in my theroies,i wish too study such things,too know what its like to walk down the beach watching a beautiful sunset in beach shorts W/ aysysmmetrical leg's