Bionic Prosthetics

Bionik Laboratories Explores Voice-Controlled Exoskeleton

From This exoskeleton can be controlled using Amazon’s Alexa – The Verge

Bionik Laboratories says it’s the first to add the digital assistant to a powered exoskeleton. The company has integrated Alexa with its lower-body Arke exoskeleton, allowing users to give voice commands like “Alexa, I’m ready to stand” or “Alexa, take a step.”

Movement of the Arke, which is currently in clinical development, is usually controlled by an app on a tablet or by reacting automatically to users’ movements. Sensors in the exoskeleton detect when the wearer shifts their weight, activating the motors in the backpack that help the individual move. For Bionik, adding Alexa can help individuals going through rehabilitation get familiar with these actions.

Voice-controlled exoskeleton is an interesting way to overcome the complexity of creating sophisticated brain-machine interfaces, but current technology has a lot of limitations. For example, Alexa doesn’t have yet voice fingerprinting, so anybody in the room could, maliciously or not, utter a command on behalf of the user and harm that person with an undesired exoskeleton movement at the wrong time.

Nonetheless, these are valuable baby steps. If you are interested in Bionik Laboratories, you can see a lot more in their on-stage presentation at IBM Insight conference in 2015.

Did you know that the wheelchair was invented 1500 years ago?

Omega Ophthalmics turning the human eye into a platform for AR

From Omega Ophthalmics is an eye implant platform with the power of continuous AR | TechCrunch

… lens implants aren’t a new thing. Implanted lenses are commonly used as a solve for cataracts and other degenerative diseases mostly affecting senior citizens; about 3.6 million patients in the U.S. get some sort of procedure for the disease every year.

Cataract surgery involves removal of the cloudy lens and replacing it with a thin artificial type of lens. Co-founder and board-certified ophthalmologist Gary Wortz saw an opportunity here to offer not just a lens but a platform to which other manufacturers could add different interactive sensors, drug delivery devices and the inclusion of AR/VR integration.

Maybe there’s a surprisingly large audience among the over 60 that is willing to try and get a second youth through biohacking. Maybe over 60s will become the first true augmented humans.

Chinese researchers develop colour-shifting electronic skin

From Colour-shifting electronic skin could have wearable tech and prosthetic uses – IOP Publishing

researchers in China have developed a new type of user-interactive electronic skin, with a colour change perceptible to the human eye, and achieved with a much-reduced level of strain. Their results could have applications in robotics, prosthetics and wearable technology.

…the study from Tsinghua University in Beijing, employed flexible electronics made from graphene, in the form of a highly-sensitive resistive strain sensor, combined with a stretchable organic electrochromic device.

ReWalk Robotics makes progress with its soft exoskeleton

From ReWalk Robotics shows off a soft exosuit designed to bring mobility to stroke patients | TechCrunch

The version on display is still a prototype, but all of the functionality is in place, using a motorized pulley system to bring mobility to legs impacted by stroke.

The device, now known as the Restore soft-suit, relies on a motor built into a waistband that controls a pair of cables that operate similarly to bicycle brakes, lifting a footplate in the shoe and moving the whole leg in the process. The unaffected leg, meanwhile, has sensors that measure the wearer’s gait while walking, syncing up the two legs’ movement.

The Human Body as a battery for bionic prosthetics

From Your body is a big battery and scientists want to power gadgets with it – The Verge

There are many ways self-powered devices can work. One is piezoelectric energy, which is generated when you apply pressure to certain materials. Another method, more common in the public imagination, is harvesting movement. But while movement seems obvious, it’s not practical to have a device that only works when you’re in motion. So, for many researchers, the best source of energy is body heat, or thermoelectric generation.

Thermoelectric generation works because our bodies are almost always a different temperature from the air outside. Thermoelectric generators pick up on the temperature difference and then use that to create energy, says Daryoosh Vashaee, an electrical engineer at North Carolina State University. Last year, his team built a tiny device that did just that. It’s a metallic tab that can be embedded in a shirt or worn on an armband.

149 research papers on brain augmentation

From Augmentation of Brain Function: Facts, Fiction and Controversy | Frontiers Research Topic

Augmentation of brain function is no longer just a theme of science fiction. Due to advances in neural sciences, it has become a matter of reality that a person may consider at some point in life, for example as a treatment of a neurodegenerative disease. Currently, several approaches offer enhancements for sensory, motor and cognitive brain functions, as well as for mood and emotions. Such enhancements may be achieved pharmacologically, using brain implants for recordings, stimulation and drug delivery, by employing brain-machine interfaces, or even by ablation of certain brain areas.

I plan to review all of them.

First 3D printed soft artificial heart 

From Researchers 3D print a soft artificial heart that works a lot like a real one | TechCrunch

The heart was created using a 3D-printed method that lets the researchers make a complex inner structure while still using soft, flexible material as its structure. The whole thing is basically one single part (a “monoblock”), so there’s no need to worry about how different internal mechanisms fit together — except at the input and output ports, where blood would come and go.

In tests the heart worked quite well, pushing a blood-like fluid along against body-like pressures. There is, of course, a catch.

This heart is a proof of concept, not built for actual implantation — so the materials they made it from don’t last more than a few thousands beats. That’s about half an hour, depending on your heart rate

DARPA Grants $65 Million for Advanced Brain-Computer Interfaces

From U.S. to Fund Advanced Brain-Computer Interfaces – MIT Technology Review

Paradromics’s haul is as much as $18 million, but the money comes with a “moonshot”-like list of requirements—the implant should be not much bigger than a nickel, must record from one million neurons, and must also be able to send signal back into the brain. 

The US Department of Defense certainly wants to beat Elon Musk’s Neuralink at this game.

Cardiac tissue engineering: from matrix design to the engineering of bionic hearts

From Cardiac tissue engineering: from matrix design to the engineering of bionic hearts | Regenerative Medicine

The field of cardiac tissue engineering aims at replacing the scar tissue created after a patient has suffered from a myocardial infarction. Various technologies have been developed toward fabricating a functional engineered tissue that closely resembles that of the native heart. While the field continues to grow and techniques for better tissue fabrication continue to emerge, several hurdles still remain to be overcome. In this review we will focus on several key advances and recent technologies developed in the field, including biomimicking the natural extracellular matrix structure and enhancing the transfer of the electrical signal. We will also discuss recent developments in the engineering of bionic cardiac tissues which integrate the fields of tissue engineering and electronics to monitor and control tissue performance.

High-Performance Piezoresistive Electronic Skin with Bionic Hierarchical Microstructure and Microcracks

From High-Performance Piezoresistive Electronic Skin with Bionic Hierarchical Microstructure and Microcracks – ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces (ACS Publications)

Electronic skin (E-skin), a popular research topic at present, has achieved significant progress in a variety of sophisticated applications. However, the poor sensitivity and stability severely limit the development of its application. Here, we present a facile, cost-effective, and scalable method for manufacturing E-skin devices with bionic hierarchical microstructure and microcracks. Our devices exhibit high sensitivity (10 kPa–1) and excellent durability (10 000 cycles). The synergistic enhancement mechanism of the hierarchical microstructure and the microcracks on the conductive layers was discovered. Moreover, we carried out a series of studies on the airflow detection and the noncontact speech recognition.

Student develops a controllable Third Thumb to augment human capabilities

From Controllable Third Thumb lets wearers extend their natural abilities

For her graduate work at the Royal College of Art, Dani Clode created a wearable third thumb that can help its user carry more objects, squeeze lemons or play complex chords on the guitar.

The Third Thumb is a motorised, controllable extra digit, designed for anyone who wants to extend their natural abilities.

Dezeen has some great photos and videos of this.