August 14, 2011

“I Would Hope That Saner Minds Would Prevail” Deus Ex: Human Revolution Lead Writer Mary DeMarle on the Ethics of Transhumanism

Among gamers, Deus Ex is something of a legendary fusion of disparate gaming styles. Among science fiction buffs, Deus Ex is lauded for managing to take two awesome genres, William Gibson-esque cyberpunk and Robert Anton Wilson-level conspiracy theories, and jam them together into an immanentizing of the eschaton unlike anything you’ve seen since Doktor Sleepless. And among transhumanists, Deus Ex brought up every issue of humanity’s fusion with technology one could imagine. It is a rich video game.
So when Square Enix decided to pick up the reins from Eidos and create a new installment in the series, Deus Ex: Human Revolution (DX:HR), I was quite excited. The first indication DX:HR was not going to be a crummy exploitation of the original’s success (see: Deus Ex 2: Invisible War), was the teaser trailer, shown above. Normally, a teaser trailer is just music and a slow build to a logo or single image that lets you know the game is coming out. Instead, the development team decided to demonstrate that it was taking the philosophy of the game seriously.
What philosophy? you might ask. Why transhumanism, of course. Nick Bostrom, chair of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford, centers the birth of transhumanism in the Renaissance and the Age of the Enlightenment in his article “A History of Transhumanist Thought” [pdf]. The visuals of the teaser harken to Renaissance imagery (such as the Da Vinci style drawings) and the teaser ends with a Nietzschean quote “Who we are is but a stepping stone to what we can become.” Later trailers would reference Icarus and Daedalus (who also happened to be the names of AI constructs in the original game), addressing the all-too-common fear that by pursuing technology, we are pursuing our own destruction. This narrative thread has become the central point of conflict in DX:HR. Even its viral ad campaign has been told through two lenses: that of Sarif Industries, maker of prosthetic bodies that change lives, and that of Purity First, a protest group that opposes human augmentation. The question is: upon which part of our shared humanity do we step as we climb to greater heights?

Read rest of original article here

August 3, 2011

Trends that’ll change the world in 10 years

Sensor networks, 3D printers, virtual humans and other technologies under development will drastically change our world in the decade to come, according to Cisco chief futurist and chief technologist Dave Evans
Virtual species

Virtual humans, both physical (robots) and online avatars will be added to the workforce. By 2020, robots will be physically superior to humans. IBM’s Blue Brain project, for instance, is a 10-year mission to create a human brain using hardware and software.

“They believe that within a decade they’ll start to see consciousness emerge with this brain,” Evans says. By 2025, the robot population will surpass the number of humans in the developed world. By 2032, robots will be mentally superior to humans. And by 2035, robots could completely replace humans in the workforce. Beyond that is the creation of sophisticated avatars.

Evans points to IBM’s Watson as a template for the virtual human. Watson was able to answer a question by returning a single, accurate result. A patient may use a virtual machine instead of a WebMD search. Or hospitals can augment patient care with virtual machines. Augmented reality and gesture-based computing will enter our classrooms, medical facilities and communications, and transform them as well.

The Internet Of Things

We have passed the threshold where more things than people are connected to the Net. The transition to IPv6 supports limitless connectivity. By 2020, there will be more than six Net-linked devices for every person on Earth. Currently, most of us are connected to Net full-time through three or more devices like PC, phones, TV etc. Next up are sensor networks, using low-power sensors that “collect, transmit, analyze and distribute data on a massive scale,” says Evans.

An ‘Internet of things’ means that everything from electronic dust motes to “connected shoes” to household appliances can be connected to a network and assigned an IP address. Sensors are being embedded in shoes, asthma inhalers, and surgery devices. There’s even a tree in Sweden wired with sensors that tweets its mood and thoughts, with a bit of translation help from an interpretive engine developed by Ericsson (@connectedtree or #ectree).

Quantum networking

Connectivity will continue to evolve, Evans predicts, and networks of tomorrow will be orders of magnitude faster than they are today. The network connectivity 10 years from now will see improvement by 30 lakh times.

Multi-terabit networks using lasers are being explored. And early work is happening on a concept called “quantum networking” based on quantum physics. This involves “quantum entanglement” in which two particles are entangled after which they can be separated by any distance, and when one is changed, the other also changes instantly. Production, though, is not imminent.

Zettabyte Era

By 2015, one zettabyte of data will flow over the Internet. One zettabyte equals stack of books from Earth to Pluto 20 times. “This is the same as every person on Earth tweeting for 100 years, or 125 million years of your favourite one-hour TV show,” says Evans. Our love of high-definition video accounts for much of the increase. By Cisco’s count, 91% of Internet data in 2015 will be video.

And what’s more, he said, the data itself is becoming richer, with every surface — from tables to signs — becoming a digital display, and images evolving from megapixel, to gigapixel, to terapixel definition. So, the so-called “zettaflood” will require vastly improved networks to move more data, and not drop the ball (or the packets) of our beloved video.

Adaptive technology

Technology is finally adapting to us. Evans cites image recognition, puzzle resolution, augmented reality and gesture-based computing as key examples of such technologies.

A technology called 3D printing will allow us to instantly manufacture any physical item, from food to bicycles, using printer technology. Through 3D printing, people in the future will download things as easily as they download music.

“3D printing is the process of joining materials to make objects from 3D model data, usually layer upon layer,” says Evans, adding: “It is not far that we will be able to print human organs.” In March, Dr Anthony Atala from Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine printed a proof-of-concept kidney mold onstage at TED. It was not living tissue, but the point was well-made.

A better you

“We think nothing of using pacemakers,” Evans points out. In the next 10 years, medical technologies will grow vastly more sophisticated as computing power becomes available in smaller forms. Devices like nanobots and the ability to grow replacement organs from our own tissues will be the norm. “The ultimate integration may be brain-machine interfaces that eventually allow people with spinal cord injuries to live normal lives,” he says.

Today we have mind-controlled video games and wheelchairs, software by Intel that can scan the brain and tell what you are thinking and tools that can actually predict what you are going to do before you do it.

Cloud computing

By 2020, one-third of all data will live in or pass through the cloud. IT spending on innovation and cloud computing could top $1 trillion by 2014.

Right now, the voice search on an Android phone sends the query to Google cloud to decipher and return results. “We’ll see more intelligence built into communication. Things like contextual and location-based information.”

With an always-connected device, the network can be more granular with presence information, tapping into a personal sensor to know that a person’s asleep, and route an incoming call to voicemail. Or knowing that person is traveling at 60 mph in a car, and that this is not the time for a video call.

Power of Power

How are all networked devices going to be powered, and who or what is going to power them? The answer, says Evans, lies in small things. Solar arrays will become increasingly important.

Technologies to make this more economically pragmatic are on their way. Sandia produces solar cells with 100 times less material/same efficiency. MIT technology allows windows to generate power without blocking view.

Inkjet printer produces solar cells with 90 per cent decrease in waste at significantly lower costs. Anything that generates or needs energy, Evans says, will be connected to or managed by an intelligent network.

World Is Flat

The ability of people to connect with each other all around the world, within seconds, via social media isn’t just a social phenomenon, Evans says it’s a flattening out of who has access to technology. He cited the example of Wael Ghonim, the Middle East-based Google engineer whose Facebook page, “We are all Khaled Saeed,” was a spark in the Egyptian uprising and one of the key events of the Arab Spring.

A smaller world also means faster information dissemination. The capture, dissemination and consumption of events are going from “near time” to “real time.” This in turn will drive more rapid influence among cultures.

Self-designed evolution

March 2010: Retina implant restores vision to blind patients.

April 2010: Trial of artificial pancreas starts

June 2011: Spinning heart (no pulse, no clogs and no breakdowns) developed.

Stephen Hawking says, “Humans are entering a stage of self-designed evolution.”

Taking the medical technology idea to the next level, healthy humans will be given the tools to augment themselves. While the early use of these technologies will be to repair unhealthy tissue or fix the consequences of brain injury, eventually designer enhancements will be available to all.

Ultimately, humans will use so much technology to mend, improve or enhance our bodies, that we will become Cyborgs. Futurist Ray Kurzweil is pioneering this idea with a concept he calls singularity, the point at which man and machine merge and become a new species. (Kurzweil says this will happen by 2054).


—Compiled by Beena Kuruvilla

July 28, 2011

The Walk Again Project

Over the past decade, neuroscientists at the Duke University Center for Neuroengineering (DUCN) have developed the field of brain-machine interface (BMI) into one of the most exciting—and promising—areas of basic and applied research in modern neuroscience. By creating a way to link living brain tissue to a variety of artificial tools, BMIs have made it possible for non-human primates to use the electrical activity produced by hundreds of neurons, located in multiple regions of their brains, to directly control the movements of a variety of robotic devices, including prosthetic arms and legs.

As a result, BMI research raises the hope that in the not-too-distant future, patients suffering from a variety of neurological disorders that lead to devastating levels of paralysis may be able to recover their mobility by harnessing their own brain impulses to directly control sophisticated neuroprostheses.
The Walk Again Project, an international consortium of leading research centers around the world represents a new paradigm for scientific collaboration among the world’s academic institutions, bringing together a global network of scientific and technological experts, distributed among all the continents, to achieve a key humanitarian goal.

The project’s central goal is to develop and implement the first BMI capable of restoring full mobility to patients suffering from a severe degree of paralysis. This lofty goal will be achieved by building a neuroprosthetic device that uses a BMI as its core, allowing the patients to capture and use their own voluntary brain activity to control the movements of a full-body prosthetic device. This “wearable robot,” also known as an “exoskeleton,” will be designed to sustain and carry the patient’s body according to his or her mental will.

In addition to proposing to develop new technologies that aim at improving the quality of life of millions of people worldwide, the Walk Again Project also innovates by creating a complete new paradigm for global scientific collaboration among leading academic institutions worldwide. According to this model, a worldwide network of leading scientific and technological experts, distributed among all the continents, come together to participate in a major, non-profit effort to make a fellow human being walk again, based on their collective expertise. These world renowned scholars will contribute key intellectual assets as well as provide a base for continued fundraising capitalization of the project, setting clear goals to establish fundamental advances toward restoring full mobility for patients in need.

Walk again Project Homepage

July 27, 2011

Comprehensive list of BCI Labs Worldwide

You can find a comprehensive listing of companies and labs doing research for Brain-Computer Interefaces at Now Possible. It is great for researchers, executives and other professionals to join their BCI group on LinkedIn.

You can find it at Now Possible

July 25, 2011

Scientists differentiate brain activity associated with grasping

Quickly grabbing a cup of coffee is an everyday action for most of us. For people with severe paralysis however, this task is unfeasible - yet not "unthinkable". Because of this, interfaces between the brain and a computer can in principle detect these "thoughts" and transform them into steering commands. Scientists from Freiburg now have found a way to distinguish between different types of grasping on the basis of the accompanying brain activity.

In the current issue of the journal "NeuroImage", Tobias Pistohl and colleagues from the Bernstein Center Freiburg and the University Medical Centre describe how they succeeded in differentiating the brain activity associated with a precise grip and a grip of the whole hand. Ultimately, the scientists aim to develop a neuroprosthesis: a device that receives commands directly from the brain, and which can be used by paralysed people to control the arm of a robot - or even their own limbs.

One big problem about arm movements had been so far unresolved. In our daily lives, it is important to handle different objects in different ways, for example a feather and a brick. The researchers from Freiburg now found aspects in the brain's activity that distinguish a precise grip from one with the whole hand.

To this end, Pistohl and his collaborators made use of signals that are measured on the surface of the brain. The big advantage of this approach is that no electrodes have to be implanted directly into this delicate organ. At the same time, the obtained signals are much more precise than those that can be measured on the skull's surface.

The scientists conducted a simple experiment with patients that were not paralysed, but had electrodes implanted into their skull for medical reasons. The task was to grab a cup, either with a precise grip formed by the thumb and the index finger, or with their whole hand. At the same time, a computer recorded the electrical changes at the electrodes. And in fact, the scientists were able to find signals in the brain's activity that differed, depending on the type of grasp. A computer was able to attribute these signals to the different hand positions with great reliability. Now, the next challenge will be to identify these kinds of signals in paralysed patients as well - with the aim of eventually putting a more independent life back within their reach.

Source Bernstein Center Freiburg

July 18, 2011

Soft memory device opens door to new biocompatible electronics

Jello Memory
A memory device with the physical properties of Jell-O that functions well in wet environments (credit: Michael Dickey, North Carolina State University)


North Carolina State University researchers have developed a soft memory device design that functions well in wet environments and has memristor-like characteristics, opening the door to new types of smart biocompatible electronic devices.
A memristor (“memory resistor”) is an electronic device that changes its resistive state depending on the current or voltage history through the device.
The ability to function in wet environments and the biocompatibility of the gels mean that this technology holds promise for interfacing electronics with biological systems and medical monitoring,  such as cells, enzymes or tissue.
Jello Memory2
(Credit: Michael Dickey, North Carolina State University)
The device is made using a liquid alloy of gallium and indium metals set into water-based gels. When the alloy electrode is exposed to a positive charge, it creates an oxidized skin that makes it resistive to electricity (a “0″ state).
When the electrode is exposed to a negative charge, the oxidized skin disappears, and it becomes conductive to electricity (a “1″ state).
Ref.: Orlin D. Velev, et al., Towards All-Soft Matter Circuits: Prototypes of Quasi-Liquid Devices with Memristor Characteristics, Advanced Materials, 2011; [DOI: 10.1002/adma.201101257]






Original Article by the Editor of Kurzweilai.net

July 16, 2011

Smartphones Measure Brain Waves

A new mobile phone app and accessory will let users measure their brain waves and gain insight into their own health and well-being, as medical apps continue to bring care directly to the patient.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Brain-Machine-Interfacing/185448968175960?sk=wall

July 12, 2011

Grow a new eye

“I am attempting to recreate my eye with the help of a miniature camera implant in my prosthetic artificial eye. The intraocular installation of an eye-cam will substitute for the field of vision of my left eye that I lost in 2005 from a car accident.”
So says Tanya Marie Vlach, who lost her left eye in a car accident. After she received “hundreds of international engineering proposals, support from my  one-eyed community, and thousands of media inquiries.I’ve been plotting new strategies to tell my story, both my personal one and the one of my sci-fi alter ego, into a transmedia platform, which will include: a graphic novel, an experimental documentary, a web series, a game, and a live performance.”
And she wants to build a “bionic camera eye” as a Kickstarter project,  described here. (Also see Grow a new eye by Tanya Vlach.)
Specifications:
  • SD at least, 720p HD at best
  • MPEG-4 / H.264 Recording
  • Built in Wireless Transmitter
  • Bluetooth Wireless Method
  • Remote Trigger
  • Mini A/V out
  • Firewire / USB / Mini HDMI
  • Optical 3X
  • Inductors: (Power Source)
Wish List:
  • Wireless
  • Sensors that respond to blinking enabling camera to take still photos, zoom, focus, and turn on and off.
  • Dilating pupil with change of light.
  • Infrared / Ultraviolet
  • Geo-tagging
  • Facial Recognition
  • Water Tight
  • Verisimilitude
Sounds like a great project. Thanks to Ehren Wells for the tip!


Grow a new eye from Tanya Vlach on Vimeo.


Original article  by July 11, 2011 by Amara D. Angelica
 

June 2, 2011

Archinoetics-Helping patients with Locked-In-Syndrome

The Challenge

Imagine waking up one day and not being able to move any part of your body. You try to call for help but discover you cannot speak. You attempt to look around the room to see if anyone is nearby, but your eyes won’t move either. Your mind is working perfectly, but you are trapped in your own body.
People with this rare horrific condition, known as “locked-in syndrome”, can become this way almost instantly from a brainstem stroke or severe trauma, or more either gradually from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gerhig’s Disease). In some cases, people will continue to maintain control over the eyes, allowing them to use assistive technologies like eye-tracking devices to communicate through a computer. Unfortunately, for those who lose eye control, communication is significantly more challenging and solutions are severely limited.

Our Approach

There’s no success more gratifying than helping a locked-in man communicate with his family for the first time in years.
Archinoetics developed brain-machine interfaces (BMI, also known as brain-computer interfaces or BCI) that enables people to interact with and control machines through our custom-designed functional brain imaging system. These systems, which use functional near-infrared imaging (fNIR), monitor the brain’s activity in real-time to detect what types of mental tasks a person is doing. By giving the subject a choice of a few tasks to select from, the person is able to create a signal that can be interpreted by our software and thereby allow them to manipulate basic computer interfaces. In our research lab testing our system on healthy people, everything appeared to function perfectly. The real test was when we visited a man who, because he was locked-in, had not been able to communicate with his family in years. The Archinoetics team looked on anxiously as the sensors were placed on his head and the computer started receiving data. As with many studies involving human subjects, our first tests did not work. But, over the course of several days, we worked through a number of challenges and were able to help this man answer several yes or no questions that his family wanted to ask him.
For the first time in years, he communicated!
After our initial success, we continued to improve our software for communication to improve its reliability and the speed with which someone could communicate. In parallel, we also worked on some fun applications to give locked-in people a way to entertain themselves while practicing the required mental tasks that allow them to control the system for communications. The applications included video games and painting applications. A screenshot of the video game appears here and shows a dolphin that the person controls in an attempt to eat the fish that swim by. The painting application is discussed more below.
Brain Painting
Archinoetics has developed a BCI called “brain painting”. This application allows someone to paint through consciously modifying the level of activity in a region of his or her brain. Typically this means either “singing in your head” or repeating nonsense syllables in your head (such as “la la la”). The first activity activates the language area, thereby raising the signal measured by OTIS, whereas the second activity lowers the signal. In addition to being a fun creative tool, brain painting also helps people learn the skills necessary to use a BCI effectively for communication.
For Brain Painting, Archinoetics worked closely with the late artist, Peggy Chun, whose tropical watercolor paintings made her a household name in Hawaii. Peggy was diagnosed with ALS in 2002, but never let the disease stop her from painting. As she became paralyzed, she switched to painting with her left hand, then by holding the paintbrush in her teeth. Even when she was only able to move her eyes, Peggy used an eye-tracking system to communicate and paint. At Archinoetics, we helped Peggy become the world’s first ‘brain painter’ (see her most famous brain painting on the laptop screen in the photo, entitled ‘Navajo Nightfall’). Sadly, Peggy passed away in 2008, but her memory and spirit live on in her beautiful paintings.
To view or purchase Peggy’s artwork, please visit her website at www.peggychun.com.

Support

This research is in collaboration with the University of Virginia and Georgia Tech University, and has received support from the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0705804 and Grant No. 0512003.
This article from the Archinoetics website

June 1, 2011

Boosting neuron growth may lead to drugs that improve cognition and mood

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center have developed a new way to stimulate neurogenesis (neuron production) in the adult mouse brain, demonstrating that neurons acquired in the brain’s hippo campus during adulthood improve certain cognitive functions.

The researchers boosted the number of neurons in the hippo campus, an area of the brain involved in memory and mood, and tested the mice in both learning and mood-related tasks, looking for changes in behavior.
They found specific effects on learning tasks that involve a process called pattern separation, which is the ability to distinguish between similar places, events, and experiences. Pattern separation is important for learning, since it helps determine whether something is familiar or novel.

Pattern separation may also be important for anxiety disorders, including post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and panic disorder. People with PTSD, say the researchers, have a more generalized fear response, so that when they are placed in a situation that reminds them of even one aspect of their trauma, they frequently have a full fear response.

The researchers say that the genetic strategy used to stimulate neurogenesis in their experiments can be mimicked

May 31, 2011

CorTec GmbH - a bridge between ideas and action

Brain machine interfaces that are able to read a paralysed patient’s desired movement from his or her brain and convert it into actual movement might be available in a few years’ time, if everything goes to plan.

After many years of intensive research, CorTec GmbH, a spin-off company of the University of Freiburg, now has a technology platform that is able to measure and interpret a person’s brain activity and drive muscles or artificial prostheses. Why and how was the company founded? How far has the technology come since the initial idea was first mooted?
A person is involved in an accident and suffers extensive injuries; the neurons linking the spinal marrow and the extremities are completely severed. Although the patient can now imagine how his hand grasps a cup of tea, his body no longer does what he wants. Can applied neuroscience help? Researchers from the Brain Machine Interface Initiative (BMII) at the University of Freiburg firmly believe that they can. They have spent more than ten years investigating how to drive and control muscles or prostheses using brain activity. They hope that one day they will be able to bridge connections using sensors, electrodes and computer chips. They hope to develop a platform that directly connects the brain with the machine. Is this the kind of science fiction that we know from William Gibson’s cyber punk novels?

Completely different structures are needed

“We are currently working on the BRAINCON technology platform and hope to be able to use it for such purposes in a few years’ time,” said Dr. Jörn Rickert, the managing director of CorTec GmbH, which was spun out of the University of Freiburg last year. “Some individual components will soon be granted marketing authorisation.” The researchers are already able to measure and record brain activity using electrodes and deduce from this the type of movement a patient wants to make. Using specific software and hardware, information from the brain will be translated into commands for the control of a prosthesis, or of leg or arm muscles. In experiments, volunteers have been able to move a cursor on a computer screen just through thought. The researchers believe that a paralysed patient might be able to learn to write and communicate again using the BRAINCON technology.
So science fiction becomes reality. Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go before BRAINCON can be commercialised. The technology needs to be tested in preclinical studies and then in clinical studies. So, why has CorTec already been established? “Turning an idea that resulted from basic research into a leading product requires structures quite different from those in a university research group,” said Rickert. Rickert, who did his doctorate in the Department of Neurobiology and Biophysics under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Ad Aertsen at the University of Freiburg on the representation of movement direction in the motor cortex. Rickert has been working on technology transfer issues for around five years. Supported by the university’s Technology Transfer Office, Rickert and his colleagues Carsten Mehring and Tonio Ball filed their first patent application in 2006. In 2005, the three had already received a grant for the development of a brain machine interface under the EXIST-Seed programme run by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

Sophisticated quality management and final negotiations

Supported by EXIST-Seed funds and from 2007 onwards with additional funds from the BMBF’s GO-Bio programme, the team was able to further develop the technology and prepare to set up a company. While his colleagues worked with medical doctors, physicists, mathematicians, computer scientists, biologists and material researchers at the University of Freiburg and the Freiburg University Medical Centre on the scientific aspects of the project, Rickert focused on setting up the team, creating structures enabling interdisciplinary communication between the project partners, and preparing a project, a business plan and patent management. “Creating the structure to set up a company requires investors to provide financial injections,” said Rickert. “It is also necessary to put in place a sophisticated quality management structure, comply with standards and carefully compile all the required documents.”

The company was officially founded in September 2010. The interdisciplinary team has since introduced a top-notch quality management structure in the laboratory of Prof. Dr. Thomas Stieglitz from the Department of Biomedical Microtechnology at the University of Freiburg’s Institute of Microsystems Technology. The business plan prepared by Rickert and his colleagues was shortlisted in the final round of the Science4Life funding initiative competition for the best business concept. In early 2011, the future entrepreneurs received a financial injection from the BMBF to establish their company. At present, the CorTec team is in contact with investors and hopes to commence preclinical studies with BRAINCON in a few months’ time. It is planned to commence the clinical phase in about two to three years. Some components of the technology platform will most likely be placed on the market sometime in 2011.

Being among the first

Technology transfer starts way before a prototype, not to mention a product, exists. It is a process that needs to be well prepared and can only be managed with financial and ideological support. Rickert and his colleagues are very grateful for the support they received from the Technology Transfer Office at the University of Freiburg and through the many non-university funding programmes. In the coming months, seven scientists will move from the university to the company, and two open positions still need to be filled.

The company will soon relocate to its own rooms at the University of Freiburg. The close contact with research partners is also expected to bear fruit in the future. “We have gained a technology lead in the last few years and we hope to be able to keep this despite the work being done by our competitors, in the USA and elsewhere,” said Rickert. CorTec GmbH is aiming to be among the first companies to offer permanent neurotechnological systems that will enable paralysed people to turn ideas into actions.

Source: BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg GmbH

May 29, 2011

Identifying brain networks for specific mental states

Researchers at Stanford University have determined from brain-imaging data whether

experimental subjects are recalling events of the day, singing silently to themselves, performing mental arithmetic, or merely relaxing.

In the study, subjects engaged in these mental activities at their own natural pace, rather than in a controlled, precisely timed fashion as is typically required in experiments involving fMRI. The team used uninterrupted scan periods ranging from 30 seconds to 10 minutes in length.

The team assembled images from each separate scan. Instead of comparing “on-task” images with “off-task” images to see which regions were active during a distinct brain state compared with when the brain wasn’t in that state, the researchers focused on which collections, or networks, of brain regions were active in concert with one another throughout a given state

The researchers found that distinct mental states can be distinguished based on unique patterns of activity in coordinated networks — brain regions that are synchronously communicating with one another.

The team is using this network approach to develop diagnostic tests for Alzheimer’s disease and other brain disorders in which network function is disrupted.

M. D. Greicius, et al., Decoding Subject-Driven Cognitive States with Whole-Brain Connectivity Patterns, Cerebral Cortex, 2011; DOI: 10.1093/cercor/bhr099 (in press)

May 28, 2011

Listing of Brain Controlled Devices for sale now!

Welcome to the world of Brain Controlled Devices where a simple thought controls machines. I have been facinated by these for some time now and with the whirlwind of research going on in this area I thought you might like to get brought up to speed on most of whats available today. I currently own 2 of these devices in which me and my kids enjoy frequently.

1)Emotiv Epoch-Based on the latest developments in neurotechnology, the Emotiv EPOC is a revolutionary, new personal interface for human computer interaction.They have a developer and researcher kits or you can buy it for yourself to play games on your PC with the mastermind program.

2)Star Wars Science - Force Trainer- is a game for kids ages 8+. There is a headband with sensors that is worn and controls a fan motor which in turn controls the height of a ball. The object of the game is to concentrate on specific things or relax your mind. You can check out my full review of it here.

3)OCZ OCZMSNIA NIA - Neural Impulse Actuator-OCZ's Neural Impulse Actuator (NIA) marks a new era in gaming. Rather than being a substitute for a mouse, the NIA is a pioneering peripheral to be used in conjunction with your mouse for a more immersive gaming experience. The NIA is compatible with any PC game using keyboard input... past, present, or future. Predefined profiles allow the gamer to develop their own NIA - memory to launch the desired behavior of their character and shoot with the "blink of an eye", without lifting a finger.

4)Mindflex Game - Another thought based game for kids. Similar to the Star Wars Mindforce game in that thoughts control the actions of a ball with an air fan. But different in the object of the game which is to manuver the ball through an obstacle course and can be played with 2 people. There is a sequel to this game in the Mindforce Duel in which 2 people battle is out simultaneously on the game board for control of the ball.

5)I-phone PLX X-wave- The X-wave is a thought control headband that links to your iPhone. There are games for X-wave on iphone(pad) by MindGames include W.I.L.D., Tug-of Mind

6)Neurosky mindset MINDWAVE-very similar to the Emotiv Epoch. Neurosky you can buy for under 100$ and has over 50 games available for it. There are also kits for rearchers as well

7)MYND-NeuroFocus’s new device, which it calls “Mynd,” has a few key features. It claims to get “full-brain coverage with dense-arrray EEG” sensors, yielding data “within seconds” of switching the device on. It can also network with any Bluetooth-enabled mobile device, like an iPhone or iPad. Unlike other EEG devices you may be familiar with, Mynd doesn’t need to use gel (that’s what’s meant by calling the device “dry”). And since the device isn’t too heavy itself, and can be linked to a wireless device, that basically makes it a mobile brain scanner. (See our earlier take on a “wearable” PET scanner for rats, here.) NeuroFocus envisions research panels conducted at home with the device; its CEO Dr. A.K. Pradeep tells Fast Company those might happen within the next eight months.

8)Mind technologies-exclusevely developes apps for the emotive headset. Some games created include mastermind,mindmouse,and think tac toe.

9)Interaxon-Has a headset and creates apps for the ipad.

10)3d glasses by interaxon- It's (3-D glasses) gives you the ability to watch a movie or televised content, and it knows the state that you're in, whether it be scared, excited, or bored.

11)Openvibe- Created a software platform for  BCI'S. There is a 10minute video explaining exactly how it works here


May 27, 2011

Buy the Force Trainer


At first appearance its like you really are becoming a Jedi or maybe developing telekinesis. So how does it work exactly?

How it works
The Star Wars Force Trainer uses a headset that measures brainwave activity. You get the ball to move in the pipe by concentrating or giving mental control thoughts.The thoughts control the strength of the air fan which in turn control the ball height.

The voices of Yoda and R2-D2 are used to guide players to levitate a ball (decorated like Luke’s training probe) up to three different heights, all to the accompaniment of sound effects and music from the popular films.

The game includes a wireless headset, similar to a pair of light headphones. Plastic arms place one electrode behind each ear and a third against your temple. Easy to adjust for different head sizes, it’s quite comfortable to wear.

Pros
-well made durable product
-FUN for kids and adults alike
-Good tool for explaining to children the power of the mind. -Not very expensive

Cons
-short battery life . You can purchase an addition ac adapter with the deluxe version

On a personal note I have used it at adult parties and it was a big hit. We would have shooters and tried doing other tasks like reading and walking around and still attain a Jedi level.


You can buy theStar Wars Science - Force Trainer here at Amazon.com at 54% off store price right now. Unfortunately there are only 3 left in stock though.
The Deluxe version also comes with an AC adapter

May 25, 2011

Brain Controlled Game List

Over the last few years there have been a few entries into the Brain Controlled Interface Arena. I'm sure this is only the beginning. Some of them are quite inexpensive and quite fun like Mattel's Mindflex which just came out with a sequel to it in Mindlfex Duel where by opponents can go in a head to head competition.

 So without further ado here is a short list of entries into this space that are available now.

1)Mattel's Mindflex Game
 - The idea is to move a ball higher(vertically) the harder you concentrate and to move the ball to the side(horizontally) you and are required to adjust the knob on the base of the game. There are 5 different obstacle challenges to try out and the board is adjustable so you can create your own. What we found was fun was to use it together. One of use would move the dial while the other used the headband. We would also time each other to see who could do it the fastest. You can read my full review of it here
2)Mindflex Duel Game
- Mindflex Duel is for the most part the same game as above except it lets two players engage in battles of intense "mind-eye" concentration.







3)Emotiv Epoch has 5 video games to date on their website. 2 are free right now. They are also working with game developers like Mind technologies to make more games in the future.







4)Star Wars Science - Force Trainer
-Another entry into the kids market in which you also have to move a ball. You can check out my full review of it here .
.
5)I-phone PLX X-wave- is a brainwave to iPhone interface which allows you to control iPhone apps at will. There are also a couple games available to play on the iPhone specifically for the X-wave






6)Neurosky's Mindwave headset is now available on amazon which you can find here MindWave Mobile with MyndPlay.


7)Interaxon Muse: The Brain Sensing Headband - Black. You can also get a couple games like "zenbound" for the iPad


8)OCZ OCZMSNIA NIA - Neural Impulse Actuator-OCZ’s Neural Impulse Actuator (nia) marks a new era in gaming. Rather than being a substitute for a mouse, the nia is a pioneering new peripheral to be used in conjunction with your mouse for a more immersive gaming experience.
Immerse Yourself into the Game!
The nia is compatible with any PC game using keyboard input… past, present, or future. Predefined profiles included with the software allow the gamer to develop their own nia—memory to launch the desired behavior of their character and shoot with the "blink of an eye", without lifting a finger.

Become Your Character
Streaming biopotentials into the computer and witnessing real-time feedback through the game will result in a novel way to experience virtual reality. Enter a virtual world where abstractions like keyboard commands are replaced by intentions converted into tensions and translated into command structures.

Where others have to practice reaction times, you can use reflex-based game play to get the better of your opponents by cutting your reaction time by 50%.

May 22, 2011

Bionic hand for 'elective amputation' patient

An Austrian man has voluntarily had his hand amputated so he can be fitted with a bionic limb.

The patient, called "Milo", aged 26, lost the use of his right hand in a motorcycle accident a decade ago.
After his stump heals in several weeks' time, he will be fitted with a bionic hand which will be controlled by nerve signals in his own arm.

The surgery is the second such elective amputation to be performed by Viennese surgeon Professor Oskar Aszmann.

The patient, a Serbian national who has lived in Austria since childhood, suffered injuries to a leg and shoulder when he skidded off his motorcycle and smashed into a lamppost in 2001 while on holiday in Serbia.
Milo and his hybrid hand Milo used a hybrid hand before deciding on the operation
While the leg healed, what is called a "brachial plexus" injury to his right shoulder left his right arm paralysed. Nerve tissue transplanted from his leg by Professor Aszmann restored movement to his arm but not to his hand.

A further operation involving the transplantation of muscle and nerve tissue into his forearm also failed to restore movement to the hand, but it did at least boost the electric signals being delivered from his brain to his forearm, signals that could be used to drive a bionic hand.

Then three years ago, Milo was asked whether he wanted to consider elective amputation.
"The operation will change my life. I live 10 years with this hand and it cannot be (made) better. The only way is to cut this down and I get a new arm," Milo told BBC News prior to his surgery at Vienna's General Hospital.

Read the rest of the original here article at BBC news 

May 19, 2011

"Dean of Invention" tv show

Dean Kamen is a globally renowned inventor with more than 400 patents, including the Segway, the insulin pump and the robotic prosthetic “Luke Arm.” This fall, the inventor will play the role of investigator—leaving his private island to jet around the world in search of the technologies of tomorrow.

In the world premiere original series Dean of Invention, Planet Green joins Kamen on his quest to find the next scientific breakthroughs that will improve life for all mankind.

There are a bunch of cool clips from the tv show around topics like: BCI interfaces, flying cars, cybernetics, renewable energy sources and alot more.
You can find them herehttp://planetgreen.discovery.com/tv/dean-of-invention/dean-of-invention.html

May 14, 2011

Imec BCI to be unveiled in feb 2011

IMEC emotivepoclike headset1 e1297248366713 New EEG Headset From Imec to Compete Existing Brain Reading ProductsAt the heart of the system is IMEC’s 8-channel ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) which consumes ultra-low-power (200µW only) and features high common mode rejection ratio (CMRR) of 120dB and low noise (input referred noise of 55nV/√Hz).

A brand new wireless brain-reading headset debuts this week at the Medical Design and Manufacturing conference and exhibition in Anaheim, California.


The Belgian Imec and Dutch Holst Centre say their device will enable continuous ambulatory monitoring, it could improve safety in the future (no more sleeping while driving a car) and also improve the joy of video games by adjusting the action and the environment to the player’s cognitive state (just like Emotiv EPOC). With future medical applications the headset might functioning as warning system for epileptic patients and even enabling typing text by thoughts to people with motoric disabilities to communicate.

The prototype headset doesn’t look worse than any other consumer brain-computer interface on the market, it has a unique futuristic shape. The flexible and magnetic dry electrodes could be practical in use, hopefully
they don’t cause too much pain on the skin.

The electronics, including the integrated circuit, radio, and controller chips are integrated in a small wireless EEG system of 25 x 35 x 5 millimeters, that can easily be embedded in headsets, helmets or other accessories.

This wireless EEG system has been integrated in a prototype EEG headset. The prototype headset can be easily adapted to the head of the user by extending a plastic bridge near the back of the head and by moving the part that contains the electronics upwards or downwards. On top of that, a spring suspension, guaranteeing improved robustness, and a magnetized pivoting mechanism can be used for fine adaptation to the head. The magnetic connection of the electrodes allows quick and easy replacement making it a hygienic solution. Gel injection is still possible if required for certain applications. Today the system relies on commercial off-the-shelf Ag/AgCl electrodes, which may lead to certain level of discomfort. According to Imec, in a few years, research on dry electrodes will result in increased comfort and higher signal quality.
According to Imec’s is mentioned in press release, the industry can get access to this technology by joining the Human++ program as research partner or by licensing agreements for further product development.

Will it be a real competition to existing market leaders such as Emotiv and NeuroSky? Future will tell.

May 10, 2011

Talk with a dolphin via underwater translation machine

A DIVER carrying a computer that tries to recognise dolphin sounds and generate responses in real time will soon attempt to communicate with wild dolphins off the coast of Florida. If the bid is successful, it will be a big step towards two-way communication between humans and dolphins.

Since the 1960s, captive dolphins have been communicating via pictures and sounds. In the 1990s, Louis Herman of the Kewalo Basin Marine Mammal Laboratory in Honolulu, Hawaii, found that bottlenose dolphins can keep track of over 100 different words. They can also respond appropriately to commands in which the same words appear in a different order, understanding the difference between "bring the surfboard to the man" and "bring the man to the surfboard", for example.

But communication in most of these early experiments was one-way, says Denise Herzing, founder of the Wild Dolphin Project in Jupiter, Florida. "They create a system and expect the dolphins to learn it, and they do, but the dolphins are not empowered to use the system to request things from the humans," she says.
Since 1998, Herzing and colleagues have been attempting two-way communication with dolphins, first using rudimentary artificial sounds, then by getting them to associate the sounds with four large icons on an underwater "keyboard".

By pointing their bodies at the different symbols, the dolphins could make requests - to play with a piece of seaweed or ride the bow wave of the divers' boat, for example. The system managed to get the dolphins' attention, Herzing says, but wasn't "dolphin-friendly" enough to be successful.

Herzing is now collaborating with Thad Starner, an artificial intelligence researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, on a project named Cetacean Hearing and Telemetry (CHAT). They want to work with dolphins to "co-create" a language that uses features of sounds that wild dolphins communicate with naturally.

Read the rest of the original article by MacGregor Campbell at New scientists magazine

April 17, 2011

Mindflex Game Reviews

Me and my 7 year old son just finished using Mattel's mindflex game where the obstacle of the game is to move a foam ball using thought control.

The ball is moved higher(vertically) the harder you concentrate and to move the ball to the side(horizontally) you are required to adjust the knob on the base of the game. There are 5 different obstacle challenges to try out and the board is adjustable so you can create your own. What we found was fun was to use it together. One of use would move the dial while the other used the headband. We would also time each other to see who could do it the fastest.


PROS
At first I wondered if it really is kid friendly but it took my son about 5-10mins to get a good handle on controlling the ball so its definitely kid worthy. I am constantly amazed by how smart little kids really are.

CONS
The only complaint I have is that the headband gets a little irritating after about an hour. And no it doesn't give you a headache which is something else I was concerned about.

Conclusion
All in all an excellent experience. I saw on Mattel's site that they will be releasing a follow up called Mindflex Duel where you go head to head competing to push the ball. Looks even better. Can't wait to try it out. In the stores I found Mindflex usually retails for 80-100$ and the Mindflex Duel will be in the 110-150$ range. I did find a much better deal at amazon however. There are also a lot of reviews there for the product in case you wan to see more.

1Mindflex Game for 55$
2.Mindflex Duel Game for 99$





April 16, 2011

If the Drug NZT was real would you take it?

In the 2011 Movie "Limitless" the main character played by Bradley Cooper stumbles onto a drug called NZT that unlocks the potential of the human mind and in concept allows you to use 100% of it.

After taking NZT he becomes stronger, able to learn languages in a day, conquer wall street and makes his life the potential of his life virtually wait for it.........  LIMITLESS.

Obviously there are side effects of taking  the drug that are serious such as blackouts, loss of chunks time, fits of rage and if he stops taking it death.

I found myself thinking that it might be worth the risk especially if you are down and out for the count in life. If you have nothing left to lose "why not?"

I decided to do some digging around to find some non-drug solutions without the side effects and I wrote a post on it
http://transhumanmovement.blogspot.com/2011/04/movie-limitless-not-that-far-from.html

What I also wondered was how many people would actually take the drug as well knowing full-well the side effects.

If this topic interests you stay tuned as I will be writing a post soon about drug related solutions

April 10, 2011

Boosting neuron growth may lead to drugs that improve cognition and mood

Mice with more adult-born neurons (right) display increased exploratory behavior and decreased anxiety-like behavior in the open field test following a voluntary exercise regimen. (Credit:A Sahay et al./Nature)
Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center have developed a new way to stimulate neurogenesis (neuron production) in the adult mouse brain, demonstrating that neurons acquired in the brain’s hippocampus during adulthood improve certain cognitive functions.

The researchers boosted the number of neurons in the hippocampus, an area of the brain involved in memory and mood, and tested the mice in both learning and mood-related tasks, looking for changes in behavior.
They found specific effects on learning tasks that involve a process called pattern separation, which is the ability to distinguish between similar places, events, and experiences. Pattern separation is important for learning, since it helps determine whether something is familiar or novel.

Pattern separation may also be important for anxiety disorders, including post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and panic disorder. People with PTSD, say the researchers, have a more generalized fear response, so that when they are placed in a situation that reminds them of even one aspect of their trauma, they frequently have a full fear response.

The researchers say that the genetic strategy used to stimulate neurogenesis in their experiments can be mimicked pharmacologically, potentially leading to the development of new drugs to reverse pattern separation deficits and improve cognition and mood.

Ref.: René Hen et al., Increasing adult hippocampal neurogenesis is sufficient to improve pattern separation, April 3 online edition, Nature

April 4, 2011

Two books for Radical Life Extension"The Scientific Conquest of Death" and "Ending Aging"

In "The Scientific Conquest of Death
" written by the Immortality Institute they surmize that immortality will become an eventuality and a reality not some fictional sci-fi fanboy wetdream.

The book is divided into two areas. The first being the Scientific Essays from well-known authors like Ray Kurzweil and Aubrey De Grey which outline potential solutions to the problem of aging, and why it will eventually happen. Also they speculate on when it may occur.

The second half is about the Perspectives or philosophic arguments why becoming immortal is a worthy goal.

Overall its a great introduction to radical life extension ideas and philosophies. My only criticism of the book is that I would have preferred it to be a little more technical and less general but I guess its trying to get the word out to as broad an audience as possible which is definitely a worthy goal.

A second book I would recommend is Aubrey De Grey's "Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs That Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime
" which goes a little more into the technical side which I personally love but may put some lay-people to sleep.

First by breaking down exactly what happens to your body when its aging and the processes behind it and then by comparing our body to a machine in which parts can systematically can be repaired piece by piece as damage is accumulated throughout our its and our lives. 

Lastly he goes into his recommendations for how the R&D community could and should go about redirecting its resources by solving the problem of age related diseases.

In all its easily one of my top 3 books I've read over the last few years.


The Scientific Conquest of Death

Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs That Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime



Immortality Institutes Homepage

Aubrey De Grey SENS Foundation