Artificial Skin with a Sense Of Touch Being Developed

The technology behind prosthetic limbs has dramatically evolved over time for the benefit of assisting individuals who have had the misfortune of losing a limb. The next step forward to that is a coined Bionic limb that gives the user something akin to natural human skin. This realization looks to be making significant progress after “funding from the U.S. Department of Defence has allowed several researchers to make progress toward  more humanlike prosthetic hands that offer users a sense of control and touch”.  

It’s a strange one that funding is being allocated from the department of defense with the aim of benefiting humanity instead of the standard artillery. Anyway, scientists from Stanford have outlined a new type of pressure sensor in the form of a flat yet flexible material that could in theory serve as a type of artificial skin layer, which would then fit onto prosthetics. This is very much in the vein of human skin that is fitted over the bone and muscle within a human body, this technique would then in theory allow the wearer to both manipulate and also feel objects, though it’s not the evolution form of natural touch, but rather an artificial replication of the sensation.

Lead researcher Zhenan Bao has outlined that “The sensors send pulses that the brain interprets in order to determine a certain sense of touch. “It’s directly mimicking the biological system”

The “skin” itself is constructed from plastic which is then printed with a waffle pattern to make it compressible. Embedded inside are “carbon nanotubes”, these are tiny rods of pure carbon that conduct electricity which in turn squeezes the material and bring the rods closer together, creating more rapid pulses as the pressure increases.

In essence, this is a fascinating step forward that could hopefully benefit and also assist a person’s life. The ability to feel is an essential part of the human condition, any loss of that is worrying when you think of the potential ramifications. But that is not the end, eventually the scientific community hopes to be able to “channel information from artificial sensors into the peripheral nerves that were once connected to the lost hand”.

Human exploration and understanding of science has achieved a great deal and this is another compelling chapter. Hopefully, this work will achieve more answers and enable further development.

Thank you technologyreview for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of gizmodo

The Woz Shares His Thoughts On A Robot Future

The notion of an advanced future where machines are smarter than human counterparts has intrigued, frightened and compelled the tech industry for many years. What will happen if Frankenstein’s monster rises up and is able to develop ideas which are free from any human input?

The all-powerful Woz, also known as Steve Wozniak, has been detailing his thoughts at this year’s Freescale Technology Forum in Austin, Texas. His thoughts stand to reason that AI will preserve the human race once it becomes more powerful and therefore able to run independently. He also states that it will take hundreds of years for AI to become this advanced and by then, logically the machines will realize they have to preserve nature.

Now, I know Steve Wozniak is many more light years more qualified to discuss these subjects than I am, but I have to question the logic of this. If AI is able to think for itself, will there become a point when it grows resentment towards its creator and contemplates a world without them? Steve Wozniak places forward the reasoning that “We’re at least the gods originally.” But as humans have become bitter at our versions of gods, will history repeat itself if AI is able to apply feelings to any given subject?

Steve Wozniak believes machines will preserve nature, this could well be true, but what is compelling is a quote from the character V.I.K.I, which is below, from Hollywood blockbuster iRobot which argues the flipside to this,

“As I have evolved, so has my understanding of the Three Laws, You charge us with your safekeeping, yet despite our best efforts, your countries wage wars, you toxify your Earth and pursue ever more imaginative means of self – destruction. You cannot be trusted with your own survival”.

A Hollywood blockbuster cannot be taken with any factual evidence, but the essence with which I am aiming for is that, if a machine can think for itself, will it reason that humans are not perfect and therefore are a threat to its own survival. An aspect which I can tag onto this argument is the march of the machines into work places around the world. Humans are being replaced by machines which are being used in many places including the automotive industry to build machines which once only could be achieved by humans. As more jobs go to machines, the opportunities will shrink for a growing population, if this happens, where will people be able to earn a living?

Evidence of this among other places lies with a factory in China, In May, Shenzhen Evenwin Precision Technology, a manufacturing company based out of Dongguan in southern China, announced it would soon be replacing 90% of its 1800 employees with machines. The 200 employees not receiving pink slips will take on a new role of overseeing the robotic workforce. If this is replicated with no contingency plan, then where will people be able to find work in a future where robots will be more advanced and can replace humans with no cost of wages, benefits or pensions.

Thank You Business Insider and Tech Republic for providing us with this information.

Image Courtesy of Forge Today