“Prosthetic Memory Systems,” Delivered Via Electrode, Could Be Dope, If You’re Willing To Wait A While

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Prosthetic memory systems: no longer just some sci-fi nonsense.

Researchers just completed a military-funded project intended to boost patients’ recall. At first glance, the numbers look really promising. At second glance, though, they might just be enough cause for optimism, but, well, not much more. 

The 15 participants were seeking treatment for epilepsy-related memory loss at North Carolina’s Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. They had already received surgery to place small brain implants in an effort to map what was going on in their brains to better treat their epilepsy.

In the study, published in the Journal of Neural Engineering on March 28, the participants in the study were asked to complete a simple task: look at an image on a screen and then correctly identify it among three or four other images after a short delay. While they were doing so, the researchers were busy mapping their brain activity to identify the region that displayed the most activity when the participant remembered the correct image.

In a second trial, the researchers used those small electrodes to stimulate the “correct answer” areas they had just identified.

The result? Stimulated participants’ short term memory improved by 37 percent, and their long-term memory (or what the researchers are calling that — a similar task with a longer day) improved by 35 percent.

“This is the first time scientists have been able to identify a patient’s own brain cell code or pattern for memory and, in essence, ‘write in’ that code to make existing memory work better, an important first step in potentially restoring memory loss,” said Robert Hampson, the lead researcher on this project, in a press release.


The researchers received funding from DARPA in the hope that their work could help soldiers who face memory loss after head injuries.

Some caveats: this was one clinical trial conducted on just 15 people who were asked to complete one specific, simple task in a hospital setting. It’s not at all clear this would help you stop losing your keys so damn much, nor would you want to necessarily undergo surgery to try it. At least, not at its current stage of development, which is just proof-of-concept. 

The results from this latest memory boosting study, which the researchers are calling a “prosthetic memory system,” are impressive. They might even inspire optimism, if you’re into that sort of thing.  This experiment lays the groundwork for future human research into technology that can restore or enhance brain function, and that’s nothing to dismiss.

But for as long as scientists have studied memory loss, no matter its cause, the timeline for when we’d have a viable solution was always in “the near future,” “sometime down the line.” A stock answer for when Alzheimer’s might be cured is always “50 years away,” conveniently after that scientist would likely have retired.

So what does this study show? A cool, promising future of prosthetic memories. But not for, say, 50 years or so.

The post “Prosthetic Memory Systems,” Delivered Via Electrode, Could Be Dope, If You’re Willing To Wait A While appeared first on Futurism.


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Apple submits new accessibility emoji to Unicode Consortium, includes prosthetic limbs, guide dogs, more

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Apple has today proposed a new set of emoji to the Unicode Consortium that focuses on accessibility. The new set includes at least nine new emoji.



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Apple proposes new accessibility emojis, including prosthetic limbs and people with wheelchairs

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Apple accessibility emojis proposed Unicode

Last month, we saw more than 100 new emojis that will come with Unicode 11.0. Now Apple has proposed even more new emojis for Unicode.

Apple has submitted a proposal for several new accessibility emojis. These include an ear with a hearing aid, guide and service dogs, people in wheelchairs, a deaf sign, and mechanical or prosthetic limbs. Apple says that it developed these emojis with organizations like the American Council of the Blind, the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, and the National Association of the Deaf.

These emojis must be approved by the Unicode Committee before they can become characters that you can use on your phone. If they’re approved, they may be included in Emoji 12.0 in the first half of 2019.

We’ve seen emoji become more inclusive in recent years, adding more male and female variants of professions as well as adding skin tone options. While these new accessibility emojis haven’t yet been approved, it’s good to see more representation in emojis in the works, and hopefully these new characters will eventually make their way into an official emoji release.

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Apple Proposes New Collection Of Accessibility Emoji, Including Prosthetic Limb, Wheelchair, More

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Apple and emoji often come hand in hand, and the company has today proposed a few new emoji to the Unicode Consortium, with each and every one of them based on the world of accessibility.

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Apple Submits New Emoji that Includes Guide Dogs, Prosthetic Limbs, and More

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Apple has just submitted another round of emoji to the Unicode Consortium, which means the company is aiming to include even more options for Apple device owners in the coming months. Continue reading
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Apple proposes new accessibility emoji to include guide dogs and prosthetic limbs

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Apple today submitted an official proposal to the Unicode Consortium, requesting a greater variety of emoji representing those with disabilities. The company says it wants to fill a gap that exists in the language of emoji. The emoji include an ear with a hearing aid, a person making the ASL sign for “deaf,” a person walking with a cane, people in two different wheelchairs, and two kinds of prosthetic limb. It also includes both a guide dog in a harness, and a service dog in a vest, with Apple pointing out the different purposes of each animal and why they…

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Georgia Tech’s New Prosthetic Arm Enables Amputees to Control Each Individual Finger

Prosthetic Functionality Is No Longer Science Fiction

When Jason Barnes was electrocuted in 2012, doctors were forced to amputate his arm from the elbow down. As a musician, the loss of his right arm must have certainly traumatized and saddened beyond any simple repair.

Two years later, Gil Weinberg, a professor at the Georgia Tech College of Design, and his lab developed a new prosthetic for Barnes that enabled him to play one of his favorite instruments: the drums. The prosthetic arm was equipped with a pair of drumsticks — one controlled by Barnes himself, while the other moved on it’s own and improvised it’s movements based on the music it heard nearby.

Barnes used to also play the piano, but a majority of prosthetic arms available are as of yet unable to provide the level of dexterity required to play such a complex instrument. So after creating the drumstick prosthetic, Weinberg set out to create another device that would enable Barnes to play the piano once again, and he took some inspiration from Luke Skywalker’s own robotic limb. A source the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was inspired by as well.

Despite the amputation of his arm, Barnes still had the muscles required to control his fingers. The problem was the electromyogram (EMG) sensors used in most prosthetic limbs are inaccurate, meaning Weinberg and his team had to find another approach.

“We tried to improve the pattern detection from EMG for Jason but couldn’t get finger-by-finger control,” explained Weinberg. That’s when the team incorporated an ultrasound machine. Working together with other Georgia Tech professors – Minoru Shinohara, Chris Fink, and Levent Degertekin — they attached an ultrasound probe to Barnes’ everyday prosthetic arm.

As explained by Georgia Tech, the muscles movements seen when Barnes tries to move his amputated ring finger are different from those seen when he tries to move any other finger. Using this information, Weinberg and his team fed the unique muscle movements for each finger into an algorithm that’s able to determine which finger Barnes wants to move. Used in combination, the ultrasound signals and machine learning can detect the movements of each finger, as well as how much force he wants to use.

Now, 5 years later, he’s able to play the piano again.

“It’s completely mind-blowing,” said Barnes. “This new arm allows me to do whatever grip I want, on the fly, without changing modes or pressing a button. I never thought we’d be able to do this.”

Practical Applications

Incredibly, Weinberg believes the technology used for Barnes’ new arm can also be used for more than music. One day, according to the professor, it could be used to help people with tasks “such as bathing, grooming and feeding.” Considering how it was successful enough to provide enough dexterity for individual fingers to hold a melody on the piano, there’s no reason why it couldn’t enable someone to type on a keyboard as well. Or use a smartphone, play video games, et al.

The potential doesn’t stop there, as Weinberg imagines a time in which even able-bodied people can remotely control robotic limbs by moving their fingers. This is starting to sound like the cyborg character Molly Millions from William Gibson’s “Neuromancer.”

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However, given the current concerns about automation displacing millions of workers, creating jobs that allow people to still be “hands-on,” but from a distance and out of harm’s way, may ease the transition, if only a little. It could also give birth to an emergent harmony, wherein humans, artificial intelligence, and robotics work together for the betterment of all, instead of the artificial replacing the biological.

One thing is certain: robotics and AI are going to enhance our own capabilities in a multitude of ways, and we’re on the verge of embracing them completely. As Boston Dynamics CEO Marc Raibert put it: “When we have robots that can do what people and animals do, they will be incredibly useful.”

The post Georgia Tech’s New Prosthetic Arm Enables Amputees to Control Each Individual Finger appeared first on Futurism.


Researchers create prosthetic hand that offers more lifelike dexterity

Researchers at Georgia Tech have developed a prosthetic hand inspired by the bionic one given to Star Wars' Luke Skywalker. What sets this one apart from other prosthetics is the amount of dexterity it offers, allowing users to move individual finger…
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Military-funded prosthetic technologies benefit veterans, but also kids

In 1905, an Ohio farmer survived a railroad accident that cost him both of his legs. Two years later, he founded the Ohio Willow Wood company, using the namesake timber to hand-carve prosthetic limbs. The company grew, surviving the Great Depression and a fire that destroyed the plant, and still thrives today in rural Ohio. Few who work there now might remember the curious footnote in the company’s history that occurred during World War II, when the rebuilt factory was diversified to build parts for PT boats and B-17 bombers. Today, it is ironic to consider a company that specializes…

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Third Thumb Prosthetic Pushes Boundaries of Human Capability

Exploring Human Augmentation

Royal College of Art (RCA) graduate student Dani Clode wants to change the way that people think about prosthetics, and she’s designed and created The Third Thumb to make that happen. Stick with me, it’s really cool.

The Third Thumb is a 3D-printed prosthetic that allows you to do whatever you’d normally do with an opposable thumb, but an extra one. “The origin of the word ‘prosthesis’ meant ‘to add, put on to,’ so not to fix or replace, but to extend,” Clode said to Dezeen. “The Third Thumb is inspired by this word origin, exploring human augmentation and aiming to reframe prosthetics as extensions of the body.”

Image Credit: Dani ClodeImage Credit: Dani Clode[/caption]
The thumb straps onto your hand on the side next to your pinky finger — you know, the side with the thumb deficit — and connects with a bracelet you wear on the same side of your body. The bracelet contains servo motors and wires that respond to commands it receives via Bluetooth. You actually tell it what to do with pressure sensors placed under the soles of your feet; to grasp something, you just press down with one foot. Clode told Dezeen this is an easy thing to learn how to do.

Image Credit: Dani ClodeImage Credit: Dani Clode[/caption]
The thumb itself is made of a flexible plastic, and uses a cable system to function. This design is intended to mimic the naturally dynamic movement of the thumb. The 3D printing design will also allow for customization in future versions of the design.

Image Credit: Dani ClodeImage Credit: Dani Clode[/caption]
Clode’s design takes us another step closer to a future in which we harness technology to augment our humanity. In other words, the possibility of a future in which prosthetics aren’t just for people with disabilities changes the way we think about disability today; we all have differing capabilities, and prosthetics could help us to extend our capabilities. “It is part tool, part experience, and part self-expression,” Clode told Dezeen. “It instigates necessary conversation about the definition of ‘ability.’”

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