Who Wants A NERF Chainsaw For All Your Zombie Fighting Needs?

Nerf are not ones to shy away from bringing us hours of fun, from a quick run around with foam darts flying to safely playing out our fantasy survival scenarios, Nerf’s are not just for kids when it comes to your imagination and the fun you can have. Recently we told you about how their latest additions included a fully automatic blaster firing at 30mph, but it looks like the serious players will soon be joining the Zombie defence force with their latest release.

The Zombie Strike Brainsaw Blaster looks like it is out of a movie with the classic green and orange colours making sure that when you swerve into the fray you will be noticed. With a handle and blade, it would look good on any survivor, but the fun doesn’t stop there. The Brainsaw blaster not only features eight firing darts but the foam blade actually rotates, adding a whole new level to your survival experience. While not the first chainsaw for the Nerf Zombie group, it is the first one which does more than just play sounds. Combine the nerf chainsaw with your hatchet, machetes and swords.

From fighting in the office to surviving a zombie horde,  Nerf seems to be keen on letting us live out our dreams, no matter what our age.

Bridging a Spinal Injury with Electronics Offers Hope to Paralysis

Science is a vital element to the exploration and development of a range of subjects and techniques, one such field is of course the medical profession, huge leaps and bounds have been made over the last decade or so. Now, Scientists at “Case Western Reserve University in Ohio have unveiled a technique that has enabled them to incorporate electronics with the aim of helping a paralysed man’s spinal injury, permitting him to use an implant in his brain to move his arm and hand”.

Robert Kirsch, who is a biomedical engineer at Case Western explained that this is the first timesignals collected in the brain have been conveyed directly to electrodes placed inside someone’s arm to restore movement”. The end goal is eventually to be in a position whereby a wireless system is introduced with the aim of transmitting brain signals through the air to electronics sewn into the limbs of paralysed people, thereby restoring the ability to carry out simple daily tasks.

It’s fascinating yet somewhat complicated but I will persist, the study results so far have indicated that the volunteers movements are still rough and as yet not as coordinated as an able-bodied person’s would be. But it’s remarkable to think that a person who is paralysed is able to control their own body and to stimulate muscles in a specific way to make them move.

Volunteers who have undertaken brain implant studies have previously attempted rudimentary tasks which have included moving a computer cursor.  This research had moved up a notch after a different Ohio man with partial arm paralysis received a brain implant and was able to mentally “open and close his hand”. This latest case is different as the current volunteer has a spinal injury that prevents him from moving or opening his arms at all.

So, in the words of Kryten, aka Robert Llewellyn, how did they do it? Now, this is the uber (not that one) complicated bit. It all started 9 months ago after surgeons implanted two bunches of silicon electrodes, called Utah arrays, into the volunteer’s motor cortex. (The Motor Cortex is the part of the brain where movements are planned) “Wires from each array then emerged from the skull through metal ports before connecting to computers that interpret the signals”.

To complete the bridge, doctors then inserted more than 16 fine wires into the volunteer’s right arm and hand. “Electrical impulses sent to those electrodes caused different muscles to contract, creating movement in the shoulder, elbow, and wrist, an approach known as functional electrical stimulation, or FES.

According to Robert Kirsch, the volunteer is able to accurately control a computer simulation of his wired-up arm using his brain signals, the challenging part is moving his real arm under brain control since it has been paralysed for so long and therefore the muscles have considerably weakened.

It’s certainly fascinating and opens up a vast array of possibilities for providing hope to paralysed individuals, the dream for scientists is to be able to offer a paralysed person the chance to undertake normal activities, I.e. walking around a room etc. Of course, this vision is as yet in the distant future, but every development provides a new possibility which in turn moves the technology and also understanding forward. We could be looking into a future whereby it is indeed possible to provide a workaround to Paralysis.

Analysing Your Brain Could Be 30 Times Faster Than A Supercomputer

The human brain, fascinating, exciting and full of possibilities, the notion to create, form an opinion and challenge the environment which we live in, is truly exceptional. We now might be able to find answers as to how powerful the human brain is after a project which is designed to compare a supercomputer with that of a brain.

An Artificial Intelligence project which has been devised by two PhD students from the University of California Berkeley and Carnegie Mellon University, will be the first of its kind to compare the human brain with the world’s best supercomputer. The AI Impacts project aims to determine how fast the human brain sends signals in its internal network compared to that of a supercomputer.

The scholars compared the power of our brains with that of IBM’s Sequola supercomputer which is in the top 3 of the most powerful supercomputers. “Sequola has a TEPS (Traversed Edges per Second) benchmark of 2.3 x 1013 TEPS”. The estimates suggest the “AI Impacts are that the human brain should be at least as powerful as Sequoia in the lower limits and for the upper estimates, therefore the human brain could surpass the IBM Sequoia speed by 30 times at 6.4 x 1014 TEPS”.

Which is both a lot to take in but also equally and potentially incredible, evolution has formed an instrument which is quite amazing, and it begs the question, what else will we find as research and tech advances with the aim of exploring us. It is also interesting to note if the wiring of for example a genius brain, think Stephen Hawking, is different to that of an average mind or the best sportsman evolved differently with more advanced genes, or if are we all capable. If we spent enough time learning a skill to be able to adapt to anything? Its compelling none the less.

Thank you aiimpacts for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of fossbytes

Almost ‘Fully Formed’ Human Brain Grown in a Lab for the First Time

Researchers from Ohio State University have come tantalizingly close to cultivating a human brain for the very first time. This technological breakthrough is designed to monitor brain activity to help understand neurological conditions such as Alzheimers and Parkinsons. Although not conscience, the synthetic brain reflects the genetic maturity of a five-week-old foetus. Unbelievably, the brain is approximately the size of a pencil eraser and constructed from human skin cells.

Rene Anand, displayed the team’s findings at the Military Health System Research Symposium in Fort Lauderdale and announced 99% of the human brain had been successfully recreated. Additionally, Anand said the reproduction contains a spinal cord, and retina. The time-scale of this process is appropriately 12 weeks but Anand is already looking to enhance the research:

“We’d need an artificial heart to help the brain grow further in development.”

It’s difficult to overemphasize how significant this discovery is and could pave the way for life-changing medications. Anand provided an insight into the potential of this monumental revelation:

“We can look at the expression of every gene in the human genome at every step of the development process and see how they change with different toxins. Maybe then we’ll be able to say ‘holy cow, this one isn’t good for you.’”

Critics of the process may point to ethical concerns, but Anand is adamant that this isn’t an issue because the brain is unconscious.

Thank you The Guardian for providing us with this information.

IBM Wants to Put a ‘Rodent Brain’ in Your Phone

Dharmendra Modha has an array of 48 circuit boards, lined 6 by 8 on a rack, each with its own processor. Modha describes this set-up as a small rodent. Or, more accurately, a digital recreation of a small rodent brain, and one that he wants to put in your smartphone.

Modha works for IBM and has been developing the neuromorphic TrueNorth chip, which mimics the brain of a rodent with its cluster of 48 million artificial nerve cells, since 2008 as the Head of its Cognitive Computer Group. Researchers in Colorado working with the processor have developed software for it that can recognise spoken language and identify images, using deep learning algorithms. The project is backed by a $53.5 million grant from the US Department of Defense’s research arm, DARPA.

“What does a neuro-synaptic architecture give us? It lets us do things like image classification at a very, very low power consumption,” Brian Van Essen, a computer scientist for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, said. “It lets us tackle new problems in new environments.”

The TrueNorth CPU is a low-power conduit for the kind of deep learning artificial intelligence that is being utilised by Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, usually through more powerful GPUs. The low power consumption of the TrueNorth means it has the potential to outperform its GPU and FPGA-powered alternatives.

Though TrueNorth cannot yet be described as a digital brain, the rodent synapse-inspired chip is certainly a step in the right direction. “You don’t need to model the fundamental physics and chemistry and biology of the neurons to illicit useful computation,” Modha says. “We want to get as close to the brain as possible while maintaining flexibility.”

Thank you Wired for providing us with this information.

Scientists Network the Brains of Three Monkeys

A group of scientists from Duke University in North Carolina, USA, have linked together the brains of three monkeys. Using their collective brainpower, the animals were able to control an avatar arm together.

Miguel Nicolelis, professor of neurobiology and biomedical engineering at Duke University and lead researcher on the project, is a pioneer in the field of mind-controlled prosthetic limbs and exoskeletons. He believes his latest research points towards a future of organic computing and collective communication bordering on telepathy.

“Essentially we created a super-brain,” Nicolelis said. “A collective brain created from three monkey brains. Nobody has ever done that before.” Preempting negative reactions to his work, he added, “We’re conditioned by movies and Hollywood to think that everything related to science is dangerous and scary. These scary scenarios never crossed my mind and I’m the one doing the experiments.”

Anders Sandberg, a neuroethics researcher at the University of Oxford, lauded Nicolelis’ work, saying, “People have claimed digital telepathy in various cool demos, but it’s mostly been total hype,” he said. “I’m quite impressed by this. It has a high ‘gosh’ factor.”

Nicolelis and his team performed a similar feat involving the brains of four rats, during which they synchronised their neuronal activity and collaborated to solve a simple weather forecasting problem that alone was beyond them.

Thank you The Guardian for providing us with this information.

Brain of a Bee Used to Pilot a Drone

Earlier this year, we brought you the story of a simulated worm brain that had been uploaded into a LEGO robot, and now it seems that The Green Brain Project is taking that idea to the next level, implanting a recreation of a bee’s brain into a robotic flying drone.

The Green Brain Project approaches artificial intelligence from an environmental perspective, using its expertise to find new ways of using AI to solve threats to humanity, specifically the declining honey bee population. As the Green Brain Project puts it on its website:

“The ‘Green Brain Project’ combines computational neuroscience modelling, learning and decision theory, modern parallel computing methods, and robotics with data from state-of-the-art neurobiological experiments on cognition in the honeybee Apis mellifera. These various methodologies are used to build and deploy a modular model of the honeybee brain describing detection, classification, and learning in the olfactory and optic pathways as well as multi-sensory integration across these sensory modalities.”

The deceptively complex bee brain was digitally cloned – a neuromimetic model, as The Green Brain Project calls it – and inserted into a modified off-the-shelf quadcopter drone. When activated, the bee brain is able to pilot the drone without assistance, using its on-board camera to navigate its surroundings.

Though the bee brain does not yet have full control over the rotors yet – they default to turning when the drone is turned on – teams across the world are working on a version that can not only choose when to fly, but can be implanted into a tiny bee-like body so, should the world’s bee colonies collapse as has been predicted by some environmentalists, these apidae cyborgs could conceivably take their place, maintaining necessary flower pollination.

Thank you PhysOrg for providing us with this information.

Mind-Reading Cap Helps Patients Control Their Prosthetic Limbs with Their Thoughts

While the ability of controlling prosthetics with your mind has been around for some time now, it required controlled electronics to be implanted directly in the patient in order to get them to work properly.

The University of Houston however found a way to use a non-intrusive approach to solve this problem by using an EEG that monitors brain activity externally through the scalp. Then, a brain-machine interface, or BMI for short, interprets the brain waves and converts the patient’s intentions into mechanical motion.

For example, if a patient thinks of picking up an object, the BMI will give the same command to the prosthetic and makes it pick up the object in question. The University of Houston has even had an 80% success rate with this project up until now. The findings are said to have been published on the Frontiers in Neuroscience, having the team of researchers be the first to get a multi-fingered prosthetic work this well with an EEG/BMI interface.

The team of researchers hope that their findings will avoid the trap of having controllers surgically implanted in patients, where the body may either reject or even form infections due to the implants. Also, the information gathered from the project at hand could even give us a higher understanding of how our brain communicates with our own limbs.

Thank you Endgadget for providing us with this information

Scientist Sends an Email 5000 Miles via Telepathy

Scientists have managed to send an email from India to France, a distance of about 5000 miles, using only the force of thought (and some technology). Okay, if it really is telepathy or not is a matter of opinion. The definition of the word (from Ancient Greek) is that tele is meaning “distant” and pathos or patheia meaning affliction or experience, and telepathy is the purported transmission of information from one person to another without using any of our known sensory channels or physical interaction. So by that definition it kind of both is and isn’t.

Computers and electroencephalography (EEG) devices were involved in the experiment, so it wasn’t really direct telepathy. The distance is also somewhat uninteresting since the internet was involved and the message wasn’t very complex either. The words hola and ciao were translated into binary and mapped to the brain activity. It’s still a pretty impressive result.

In the initial test, the greeting was sent from a volunteer in Thiruvananthapuram, India to Strasbourg, France where a computer translated the message and then used electrical stimulation to implant it in the receiver’s mind. This message then appeared as flashes of light in the corner of their vision. The light sequences allow the receiver to decode the information in the message.

Enthusiastic about the first success the researchers conducted two more similar experiments. One from Spain and one from France. The second test resulted in a total error with just 15% data accuracy. The other two were however a success.

The technology was developed as part of a collaboration between the University of Barcelona and Starlab in Spain, Axilum Robotics in France and Harvard Medical School. This is said to be the first time humans have sent a message almost directly into another persons brains.

“We anticipate that computers in the not-so-distant future will interact directly with the human brain in a fluent manner, supporting both computer- and brain-to-brain communication routinely,” the study wrote.

Human-to-brain technology is gaining traction in many areas, in May German scientists showed how seven pilots used mind control to fly with astonishing accuracy. Even more amazing was what the University of Oregon researchers showed in June when they unveiled a device that claimed to be able to monitor memories in near real time to see what a person is thinking.

Thank you DailyMail for providing us with this information.

Images courtesy of DailyMail.

Electrical Brain Stimulation Can Restore Consciousness


Patients that are in a coma, a vegetative state or in a minimally conscious state sometimes recover spontaneously to varying degrees, most cases however, there is nothing that a doctor can do. Now a study by a group of Belgian doctors might have found how to temporarily raise awareness in minimally conscious patients.

This new study at the  Liège University Hospital Center in Belgium has found that transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS), a relatively simple process that involves low current stimulation can increase the responses of their patients. For patients in a vegetative state who cannot communicate or show any other purposeful behavior,  it is hard to tell if the study worked, but researchers believed that at least 2 patients responded to treatment.  This might not sound like a massive breakthrough but out of 30 patients that were in a minimally conscious state, defined by having occasional moments of low-level awareness, 13 showed measurable gains in their responses to questions and sensory stimuli.

The effects only last for minutes but the researchers are hopeful. The tDCS apparatus is inexpensive, easy to use, safe and lacking in side effects so researchers are planning new studies to see if the stimulation can be made to spur a more lasting recovery. If this is not possible then even the short bursts of awareness could allow a patient to communicate with loved ones in a meaningful way , which, I’m sure you agree, is invaluable.

Thanks to Scientific American for supplying us with this information.

Image courtesy of Scientific American

Numenta Releases Gork, The First App to Work Similar to a Human Brain

A Redwood City, Californian-based startup company by the name of Numenta has apparently held a conference to show off their achievement, which is a piece of software mimicking the processing power of a human brain.

The company, started by Jeff Hawkins and Donna Dubinsky nine years ago, has set out to achieve an algorithm that would process information like a normal human brain. The company is said to have already shipped its first product, Gork, a piece of software that would detect unusual patterns in information technology systems. By detecting these anomalies in a computer server early, the company states it would help avoid further problems while also saving a lot of time in manually finding and fixing them.

Their first application may seem strange at first, but it fits the description of what the human brain is good at, meaning pattern recognition. It is said that the company built its architecture on Hawkins’ theory of Hierarchical Temporal Memory, having the brain store data in time sequences. This is easily noticeable by the fact that we quickly remember the words and music of a song. This theory has apparently become the foundation for Numenta’s code base, bearing the name of Cortical Learning Algorithm (CLA), which the company intends to use in future applications as well.

Hawkins and Dubinsky have stated at the company’s conference that they are even more excited about new applications based on the CLA code, having already started ‘deeper’ conversations with potential partners about how to use the technology. What would we expect from such a code in the future? Your guess is as good as ours.

Thank you Venture Beat for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of Venture Beat

Brain Controlled Interface Could Have A Big Impact Over The Next 12 Years

Rumors are that Intel and various tech related companies are showing interest in experimenting with and entering the brain-computer-interface market, according to Mind Solutions. The BCI is said to be a dedicated communication pathway between the human brain and a device, having early focus on helping medical patients recover from severe physical injuries.

Mind Solutions hopes to make the BCI technology more familiar and opened to everyone, with the help of Intel and other companies that wish to contribute to the project, over the next few years. When technology will overcome the neurons in the human brain, with the increasing number in PC transistors, there is great potential for long-term development.


“We will finally remove the fiction from the science fiction,” said Mooly Eden, Intel head of perceptual computing, during CES. It will be possible to “open a car door with our finger, receive constant information about our health” along with using devices that “interface directly with your brain.”

Mind Solutions is not looking to make it to the top with BCI, they hope that a major tech company enters the market with it and is looking more to get involved in a fairly small partnership.

Thank you Tweak Town for providing us with this information
Video courtesy of Mind Solutions

Chip Which Mimics Human Brains Revealed

According to Fudzilla, there is some news that a chip which works like a human brain has been developed. According to the French Tribune, the chip will appear in the shops in 2014. Scientists say that this chip will enable the computers to mimic human brains and with the help of this novel device computers will also be able to learn from their own mistakes.

It is confessed by the researchers that this newly designed chip will be able to connect with wires and will also mimic biological synapses. In this completely new as well as digital age, these new brain-like computers will most probably have the ability to beat as well as tolerate errors. These chips will also potentially make the term “computer crash obsolete,” the tribune said. These chips have been designed by the scientists in order to function identical to the biological nervous system of the human beings.

Larry Smarr, one of many research centres devoted to developing these new kinds of computer circuits, said, “We’re moving from engineering computing systems to something that has many of the characteristics of biological computing”. Curiously no one has said where this chip is being made, what is being called or when it will be in the shops. We guess the French press was as short staffed as we were over Christmas.

Thank you Fudzilla for providing us with this information