Each week Nikolas Badminton, Futurist Speaker, summarizes the top-5 future looking developments and news items that I find to be inspiring, interesting, concerning, or downright strange. Each day he reads through dozens of blogs and news websites to find those things that we should be aware of.
In Future Trends – Neural Dust and Autonomous Car Ethics we look at the trends that we should be aware of today, August 5th, 2016. Neural implants, ethics for autonomous cars, new NASA technology, and smart bricks.
Tiny dust-sized sensor could be the future of brain-machine interfaces – “Neural Dust”
University of California, Berkeley engineers have built the first dust-sized, wireless sensors that can be implanted in the body, bringing closer the day when a Fitbit-like device could monitor internal nerves, muscles or organs in real time.
The so-called neural dust, which the team implanted in the muscles and peripheral nerves of rats, is unique in that ultrasound is used both to power and read out the measurements. Ultrasound technology is already well-developed for hospital use, and ultrasound vibrations can penetrate nearly anywhere in the body, unlike radio waves, the researchers say.
“I think the long-term prospects for neural dust are not only within nerves and the brain, but much broader,“ said Michel Maharbiz, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences and one of the study’s two main authors. “Having access to in-body telemetry has never been possible because there has been no way to put something supertiny superdeep. But now I can take a speck of nothing and park it next to a nerve or organ, your GI tract or a muscle, and read out the data.“
The sensors, which the researchers have already shrunk to a 1 millimeter cube – about the size of a large grain of sand – contain a piezoelectric crystal that converts ultrasound vibrations from outside the body into electricity to power a tiny, on-board transistor that is in contact with a nerve or muscle fiber. A voltage spike in the fiber alters the circuit and the vibration of the crystal, which changes the echo detected by the ultrasound receiver, typically the same device that generates the vibrations. The slight change, called backscatter, allows them to determine the voltage.
Because these batteryless sensors could also be used to stimulate nerves and muscles, the technology also opens the door to “electroceuticals” to treat disorders such as epilepsy or to stimulate the immune system or tamp down inflammation.
Read more at University of Berkeley
Stanford researchers teach human ethics to autonomous cars
To actually integrate autonomous vehicles into everyday life, researchers need to teach the cars how to make the safe driving decisions that come intuitively to humans. Stanford engineers are conducting experiments to translate social behavior into algorithms so that self-driving cars will maintain vehicle safety and passenger comfort.
Read more at Stanford
This NASA EXTREME Invention Will Revolutionize Space Exploration
The Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator or LDSD is a reentry vehicle prototype developed by NASA and intended to develop landing techniques of heavy vessels on the soil of Mars to include a return mission sample or longer term of a manned mission to Mars. The low density of the Martian atmosphere (0.6% of the Earth) limit, with current technologies inherited from the Viking program, the mass of the payload that can be deposited on the soil to a tonne. The maximum weight is reached by the Mars Science Laboratory rover (Curiosity). With the technologies used by the LDSD, this mass could be increased to 3 tons in the version tested in 2014 and 20 tons in a larger version which should be the last test.
‘Smart’ bricks full of algae and microbial cells can generate electricity from sunlight and recycle wastewater
The €3.2m LIAR (Living Architecture) scheme is co-ordinated by Newcastle University and includes experts from the universities of the West of England (UWE Bristol), Trento, the Spanish National Research Council; LIQUIFER Systems Group and EXPLORA.
This project will develop blocks able to extract resources from sunlight, waste water and air. The bricks are able to fit together and create ‘bioreactor walls’ which could then be incorporated in housing, public buildings and office spaces.
World’s First Tattoo by Industrial Robot
See more at Appropriate Audiences
Nikolas Badminton is a world-respected futurist speaker that researches, speaks, and writes about the future of work, how technology is affecting the workplace, how workers are adapting, the sharing economy, and how the world is evolving. He appears at conferences in Canada, USA, UK, and Europe. Email him to book him for your radio, TV show, or conference.