How incredible would it be to imagine a thing and have it magically appear in concrete form? After food, organs and virtuality, here comes the thought printer! Thinkerthing, a start-up based in Chile, developed a method of printing 3D objects just by thinking about them. The first project is the Monster Dreamer, a technology that allows grown-ups and children to make their own game by designing 3D models of fantasy creatures, using their inner creativity and printing them out as real objects.
“It is really something magical to be there, sat without moving a limb and watching the designs evolve into something that you were thinking about” says George Laskowsky, Chief Technical Officer of the company. This “neuroscientific design” could be the start of a new, extraordinary way of creating and producing objects.
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The News Machine is a contraption that explains the news distortion that happens when a message is broadcast through different media. The starting point is a tweet sent from a tablet, then the 140 character sentence is echoed through different media filters and into print. The transmission alters the original tweet slightly through slight mistranslations between the filters. The final result is a twisted version of the original source.
At this year‘s re:publica in Berlin Kate Darling argued about our need to rethink ethics in regards to “thinking” machines. With an increase in quantity and quality of products capitalizing on anthropomorphic characteristics, people are developing clearer feelings and stronger ethical opinions towards robots.
Why do we treat certain animals like gods and slaughter others? Along the same line, why do we use certain machinery just to get things done, whereas other objects are treated and protected as iGods? Could new ethical policies for robots result in new perspectives on human-computer interrelations? Even though it still sounds futuristic, Kate Darling definitely tackles an impending problem. Especially as the boundaries between the artificial and the natural blur, society needs to update its ethical landscape.
Cameras that can record information that is invisible to the human eye: it may be not only a visionary idea. A new scanning technique permits us to obtain 3D images and detect wavelengths that our visual system is not able to see, far beyond those digital cameras are currently capable of.
In the sacred Hindu epic Mahabharata, a character called Sanjaya is entrusted with the duty of narrating the stories unfolding on the battleground to his blind king, Lord Dhritraashtra. It is said he was blessed with an ability to see events at a distance. So, in essence, the king had found himself an alternate pair of eyes who envisioned and reported live news events.
One might think such magical stories don’t come true in our real lives. However in the world where technology and culture are a byproduct of each other, there is indeed one visionary with a revolutionary design goal in mind to affect the lives of the visually-deprived. Sumit Dagar, an interaction designer from the National Institute of Design in India, was awarded a Rolex Award for Enterprise for his work on the concept of a braille phone. This smartphone for the blind is based on haptic rather than visual or auditory feedback.
There are plenty of robot arms out there, but what about the skin to cover them in? A new kind of piezotronic transistor mesh could make for robotic skin that’s as sensitive as your own is, covered in thousands of tiny mechanical hairs.
The inventor of the technology, Zhong Lin Wan from Georgia Tech, says it has immediate applications in human-machine interfaces. It could for example be used to capture electronic signatures by recording the distinctive force an individual applies while signing. In due time, Wan expects the pressure sensor arrays could equip robotics and prosthetics with a human-like sense of touch.
“About half of all people don’t take medications like they’re supposed to,” says Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute in La Jolla,California. “This device could be a solution to that problem, so that doctors can know when to rev up a patient’s medication adherence.” Topol is not affiliated with the company that manufactures the device, Proteus Digital Health in Redwood City, California, but he embraces the sensor’s futuristic appeal, saying, “It’s like big brother watching you take your medicine.”
In the movie Fantastic Voyage, a submarine and its crew were shrunk and injected into the body of a sick man in an attempt to save his life. Despite the fictional nature of this story, in the near future miniaturized, organic “computers” may roam our bodies, detecting early-stage diseases and treating them on the spot. There are already 10 times more bacterial cells than human cells in our bodies – so why not add a few more?