Today, technology is an integral part of our lives, and as such, the research and development going on in the field is amazing. Things that were once science fiction are becoming a reality. Check out these four technologies that are sure to blow you away!
1. Mind-Controlled Prosthetic Hand
If you’re a Star Wars fan, you probably remember the part where Darth Vader cuts off Luke’s hand (ouch!). But in the advanced Star Wars universe, they save Luke and hook him up with a brand new robotic hand that looks and works just like a normal human hand. No big deal, right? Well, that technology—imagined back in the ’70’s—is starting to look like a real possibility for amputees. Just last year, a group of European researchers officially tested the “LifeHand 2,” a fully robotic hand controlled by thoughts.
A man named Denis Aabo Sorensen was the first to try it out and was actually able to feel objects through the LifeHand. That’s right, the robo-hand gave him a sense of touch. It worked so well that when blindfolded, he was able to tell the difference between a baseball, orange, and waterbottle—all through the prosthetic hand.
Unfortunately, we won’t be seeing the LifeHand in day-to-day life any time soon. Researchers still have to do a lot of testing, and currently, the hand only works while hooked up to a computer. The challenge will be figuring out how to get a computer powerful enough to run the software embedded in the implant itself. Still, there are some amazing prosthetics in use today like the “Terminator” arm that allows the user to do complex tasks (try tying a shoe with just one hand) and makes the user look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Check out this video to see it in action!
2. Clothes That Hold A Charge
There is nothing more annoying than having your phone die in the middle of the day. Don’t you wish there were some way to keep your phone charged when you don’t have an available outlet? Fortunately, that looks like a real possibility with clothing embedded with nanotechnology.
Here, nano-infused dye is used to turn cotton into a microbattery.
These nano-clothes would capture the energy generated by our natural movements and then transfer that power into our mobile devices. Another method under investigation involves making clothes into nano-batteries that could store a charge. You could just slip your phone into your nano-pocket and never miss a Twitter update again!
3. Big Dog: Robot or animal?
This amazing technology might make you laugh or run away in horror. Big Dog is a robotic quadruped that can do some pretty amazing things. Created by a company called Boston Dynamics (now owned by Google), Big Dog can climb hills, trudge through snow, and stay standing (albeit not gracefully) on slippery ice all while carrying loads up to 340 pounds. In action, Big Dog’s movements look awesomely (or creepily) similar to a real animal’s movements.
In the video, the brilliant people from Boston Dynamics show Big Dog in all its glory. If you didn’t watch it, that’s okay. The people of Reddit have made some pretty funny gifs of Big Dog in action that demonstrate its amazing robotic stability.
On the Boston Dynamics website, they have eight other amazing robots, including LS3—Big Dog’s close cousin—which was developed with the help of people at Carnegie Mellon. They also have humanoid robots that might make you shudder. Petman is particularly terrifying (don’t say I didn’t warn you) because he’s dressed up in an army uniform and gas mask during testing.
Fortunately, these robots are incredibly expensive to make, so they won’t be chasing you down dark alleyways any time soon.
4. A Virtual Brain
Since the first computer was created, people have imagined creating artificial intelligence, and while we don’t have robot maids cleaning out houses quite yet, the Blue Brain Project promises something even more amazing: a neuron-for-neuron digital replication of the human brain. This digital brain, when completed would be capable of having digital brainwaves identical to the ones you and I have buzzing around our brains all day.
Visual simulation of 100 programmed neurons firing.
When the human brain is eventually replicated digitally, the possibilities would be endless. Will this brain be able to think? Develop a personality? Become self-aware? While researchers could safely experiment on the digital brain, would it be ethical?
Supercomputers used to house replicated brain functions.
Unfortunately, the human brain is huge on the neural scale. It contains an estimated 100 billion neurons which means scientists are still a decade or more away from having enough computer power to fully replicate it. In the mean time, they have successfully replicated a rat’s cortical column, which is physically smaller than the size of a pinhead. While this is a huge feat, it is still far off from a fully functioning virtual brain. Nonetheless, it is a step towards creating true artificial intelligence, and the possible start of a vast takeover from our computer overlords.
Here are a few other amazing pieces of tech worth checking out:
- Wireless Electricity (no cords!)
- Possessed Hand (play instruments like a pro without practice)
- Cloaking and Invisibility (could we someday make something invisible to the eye?)
What do you think about these technologies? Leave a comment below and don’t forget like Her Campus Pitt on Facebook!