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Cyborg Parts: bionic ear with integrated electronics

earPrinceton researchers, using a 3-D printer, have built a bionic ear with integrated electronics. lab-made organs could do more than just serve as ready options for patients in need: with the right blend of biology and materials science, they might even be able to endow people with superhuman abilities.

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How US strategic antimissile defense could be made to work

The authors show that the United States has the ability to defend itself from long-range nuclear armed ballistic missiles if it builds the right systems defenses based on stealthy drones that could shoot down ballistic missiles in powered flight after they have been launched from fixed known sites.This same system could defend Northern and Western Europe, and Northern Russia from large and cumbersome long-range ballistic missiles that Iran might build in the future.

Source: The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (PDF).

Raytheon unveils second generation exoskeleton – Sarcos XOS 2

The suit is built from a combination of structures, sensors, actuators and controllers, and it is powered by high pressure hydraulics. It enables its wearer to easily lift 200 pounds several hundred times without tiring and repeatedly punch through three inches of wood. Yet, the suit, which was developed for the U.S. Army, is also agile and graceful enough to let its wearer kick a soccer ball, punch a speed bag or climb stairs and ramps with ease.

“Getting exoskeletons deployed is inevitable in my view,” said Smith. “They are desperately needed, and I believe the military looks at them as viable solutions to a number of current issues they are trying to address. With a sustained commitment, they could be in place within five years.”

Via Engadget. Check out video at YouTube.

The Loneliest Humanoid in America

Of all the tasks you would undoubtedly love to hand off to a robot assistant, fetching a soccer ball is probably low on the list. And yet in 2010, there is no humanoid robot on Earth that can consistently do something as simple as turn, spot, approach, and kick. Never mind helping Grandma to bed or starching your shirts. Broken into a daisy chain of input, calculation and action, just kicking a ball is incredibly hard. It’s so difficult, in fact, that engineers from all over the world have embraced it as the modern era’s standardized test of humanoid-robot sophistication, and they converge each June at an event called RoboCup to try it. This year, only one adult-size, self-contained, humanoid robot in this country can even attempt it.

Source: Popular Science. Also see “Rise of the Helpful Machines” from Popular Science.

Humanoid Robot Mahru Mimics a Person’s Movements in Real Time

An operator wearing a sensor suit can control this robot’s arm and leg movements.

Mahru, an advanced biped humanoid developed by the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) and Samsung Electronics, has a bunch of skills. Mahru knows its way around a kitchen, popping a snack into the microwave and bringing it to you, as KIST researchers demonstrated when they unveiled the robot’s latest version, Mahru Z, early this year. Mahru can also dance and perform Taekwondo moves.

Source: IEEE Spectrum.

India sets sights on killer drones

Israel Aerospace Industries’ Harop

Aside from the much discussed acquisition of big conventional weapons by India, a silent accretion has been the fleet of reconnaissance and “killer” unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), specifically aimed at neutralizing threats from Pakistan, and possibly China in the future.

Official sources have told Asia Times Online that if everything goes as planned, within the next two years India should possess a fleet of at least 25-30 attack UAVs compared to fewer than five now with such capabilities. Until now, India has never admitted to using the destroyer UAVs.

Source: Asia Times. Read more about the Harop at Defence Professionals.

Restoring eyesight with retinal implants

Experimental trials of retinal implants are showing promising results. Three companies are getting closer to commercial availability of retinal implants, that restore some sight to blind people. When these implants get more advanced they would probably have applications for people with normal sight. Enhanced vision capabilities, like geotracking apps and HUDs  could become a reality in the coming decade.

Retinal Implant AG from Reutlingen, Germany has announced the results of the first human trial of its subretinal implant. Eleven patients who lost their sight due to retinitis pigmentosa received the implant through surgical transchoroidal implantation. Energy was delivered to the implant via a retroauricular plug.

Source: medGadget.

Just a few months after receiving $42 million from the Australian government, Bionic Vision Australia (BVA) unveils its prototype bionic eye, which researchers hope will enable users to perceive points of light that the brain can reconstruct into images. Announced this week at the University of Melbourne, the wide-view neurostimulator concept was developed by researchers at BVA and the University of New South Wales for patients with vision loss due to retinitis pigmentosa or macular degeneration.

Source: CNet. Also  see the US company Second Sight.

Also see “Making the blind see: Gene therapy restores vision in mice” about progress with gene therapy from EurekAlert.

MIT’s Flyfire paints images in the sky using micro helicopters, is apparently top-secret

Micro helicopters, the kind that fit in the palm of your hand (and sometimes spread holiday cheer) are huge fun — and hugely frustrating. Have you ever tried to get one to hover in place next to another? Impossible! MIT thinks it can do that, not with just two but thousands of the little beggars all hovering in harmony as part of a project called Flyfire. By using LED-equipped drones the project pledges to build free-floating 3D displays, endowing them with enough smarts and positional awareness to organize themselves into an airborne canvas. It sounds deliciously exciting and challenging, yet for some reason the school has decided you aren’t to know about it, pulling its concept video and website offline. We can only imagine there’s a government agency involved here, possibly trying to stem the virulent spread of robo-socialism, but we invite you to leave your own conspiracy theories in comments.

Source: Engadget.

(c) Copyright Plausible Futures Newsletter 2013