Electrical implants let paralysed patients stand again

Four paralysed individuals have voluntarily and independently moved their legs for the first time since injury, thanks to a spinal implant that delivers electrical stimulus.

”[…] The incredible results have been published in the journal Brain, and tell the story of four men — Kent Stephenson, Andrew Meas, Dustin Shillcox and Rob Summers — all of whom received their life changing injuries in vehicle accidents in their 20s. Now, you can fast forward in the embedded video to about 03.45 to watch Stephenson lift his legs in a series of remarkable clips. […]”

Tiny Gold Motors You Can Drive Inside Cells

They’re a step toward motors doctors could one day use to deliver targeted medicine to cells in the body.

An Artificial Hand with Real Feelings

A new nerve interface can simulate a sense of touch from 20 spots on a prosthetic hand.

”[…] Now researchers at the Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University have developed a new kind of interface that can convey a sense of touch from 20 spots on a prosthetic hand. It does this by directly stimulating nerve bundles - known as peripheral nerves - in the arms of patients; two people have so far been fitted with the interface. What’s more, the implants continue to work after 18 months, a noteworthy milestone given that electrical interfaces to nerve tissue can gradually degrade in performance.”

As the industrial age is drawing to a close, I think that we’re witnessing the dawn of the era of biological design. DNA, as digitised information, is accumulating in computer databases. Thanks to genetic engineering, and now the field of synthetic biology, we can manipulate DNA to an unprecedented extent, just as we can edit software in a computer. We can also transmit it as an electromagnetic wave at or near the speed of light and, via a “biological teleporter”, use it to recreate proteins, viruses and living cells at another location, changing forever how we view life.

J Craig Venter

American robotic arm wins James Dyson design and engineering award

Titan Arm has been announced today as the winner of the 2013 James Dyson award. Augmenting arm strength by 18 kilograms, Titan Arm can rehabilitate people with back injuries, allowing them to rebuild muscles and relearn motor control. Additionally, the exoskeleton technology can aid those who are required to lift heavy objects as part of their daily work.

World’s lightest and thinnest circuits pave the way for ‘imperceptible electronics’

Robotic Leg Control with EMG Decoding in an Amputee with Nerve Transfers

The clinical application of robotic technology to powered prosthetic knees and ankles is limited by the lack of a robust control strategy. We found that the use of electromyographic (EMG) signals from natively innervated and surgically reinnervated residual thigh muscles in a patient who had undergone knee amputation improved control of a robotic leg prosthesis. EMG signals were decoded with a pattern-recognition algorithm and combined with data from sensors on the prosthesis to interpret the patient’s intended movements. This provided robust and intuitive control of ambulation — with seamless transitions between walking on level ground, stairs, and ramps — and of the ability to reposition the leg while the patient was seated.

D-Wave Two: the quantum chip that thinks like a human

This chip sits at the heart of the D-Wave Two, a shed-sized computer housed in the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab at Nasa’s Ames Research Center in California. Made from layers of niobium instead of silicon, the chip can have “a footprint in two different realities — it has two allowed states”, says D-Wave cofounder Geordie Rose. “Think of them as 0 and 1, but during its operation it can be tuned to be in a quantum mechanical ‘superposition’ of those states” — meaning it can consider two things at once, allowing programs to mimic human learning.

Researchers build a robot that can reproduce

Cornell University researchers have created a machine that can build copies of itself. Admittedly the machine is just a proof of concept — it performs no useful function except to self-replicate — but the basic principle could be extended to create robots that could replicate or at least repair themselves while working in space or in hazardous environments, according to Hod Lipson, Cornell assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and computing and information science, in whose lab the robots were built and tested.