If you don’t believe the era of the cyborg is upon us, you haven’t been watching the news this week. An Australian firm announced it will begin human testing of a fully implantable bionic eye, a Canadian inventor became a DIY Iron Man when he demonstrated his homemade exoskeleton and we got an update from an eyeborg who has a camera hidden in his fake eye.
A team of scientists at the University of New South Wales say they’re ready to give a human being a fully implantable eye which has world’s first neural stimulation technology. Called the Phoenix99, it will be implanted in a 3 hour operation to place it in a position to send electrical signals that stimulate the nerve cells in the retina. Those signals are picked up and sent to the visual cortex of the brain, where they are translated into visual images. The user wears special glasses with a camera to capture the images and a disc behind the ear which powers the bionic eye and transmits the data from the glasses.
Co-inventor Greg Suaning says he expects to perform 12 implants over the next two years and the patients will be trained to use the eye much the same way others learn to use cochlear ear implants.
Jason Hobson, aka The Hacksmith, called upon his degree in engineering, experience in mechanical design and interest in “everything exoskeleton related” to build a homemade exoskeleton suit that allowed him to lift a Mini Cooper a foot off the ground using just his legs (before you sneer about its size, the Mini weighs (2525 pounds (1,145 kg).
Hobson made the exoskeleton from a pair of 63mm bore diameter pneumatic cylinders, locking joints for leg support and other stuff from his garage. He has also built upper body suits for mechanically-enhanced arm lifting. Hobson keeps things simple and inexpensive by avoiding batteries or powered assistance and instead takes advantage of leverage and gear ratios.
While not new, filmmaker Rob Spence revealed upgrades to the eyeball camera he first put into his empty eye socket (he was blinded as a boy by a gun injury) in 2011 to turn himself into the “Eyeborg.” The latest version looks like a regular eye prosthesis but has a tiny digital camera behind the lens connected to a micro radio-frequency transmitter.
Spence activates the eye camera by touching it with a magnet and sees what it’s seeing on a handheld monitor. Unfortunately, he’s limited to three minutes of usage at a time before the device gets too hot to wear.
It’s not a tool for the blind like the Phoeniz99. Spence uses it as a hidden camera for his film documentaries. Nefarious but still ingenious.
These inventors are using technology to fix and enhance the human body, sometimes with common materials and old-fashioned ingenuity. James Hobson says it best:
That’s what gets me excited.