Arts & Entertainment

Back to the future: New technology breakthroughs

Myo is an armband that responds to certain gestures by reading electrical activity in the muscles of the forearm// Photo courtesy of Thalmic Labs

With the Jetsons setting a high standard for the year 2062, it’s easy to get discouraged at our seemingly lacking technological progress. A utopia in the sky seems a bit far- fetched, but fun and intricate new gadgets and innovations lie just over the chrome-colored horizon.

One of these new, wearable devices includes technology that responds to a mere snap of the fingers or flick of the hand.

The use of the human body as a wireless controller is a concept that has been and is being thoroughly explored, mainly the video game industry. This idea has been the basis for gesture-control technology, which involves cameras that track users and translate their body motions into computer commands, as seen in Microsoft’s Kinect for the Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

One of the most promising new pieces of motion-reading equipment comes from Thalmic Labs, a Canadian startup company that has developed Myo — an armband that responds to certain gestures by reading electrical activity in the muscles of the forearm.

In the demonstration video on Thalmic Labs’ website, users were able to control computers, a toy ball and even give directions to aerial- and ground-based drones. Selling at $149, the band can recognize 20 different gestures and, by connecting to devices via Bluetooth, turns those gestures into computer commands.

 

 

It essentially turns hands into a wireless mouse. Compatible with Apple and Windows computers, the armband is set to be released within the next month.

The next piece of new technology would come in handy during intense games of hide-and-go-seek, those embarrassing moments in which we wish we could disappear or in case an F-22 jet fighter needs to blend in with the sky behind it. All of this and more is being made possible, with the concept of invisibility being successfully tested in labs at the University of Central Florida (UCF).

In April, researchers created a cloak that bends and masks visible light using a fishnet-type fabric called metamaterial. Metamaterial is basically an artificially-made product that has a microscopic surface engineered to bend light or sound waves around solid objects. Using sophisticated strips of metal films, the researchers were able to layer them in such a way as to create that fishnet-like pattern, which allows the control of visible light.

Made through a printing process, the UCF team believes that the material can be printed on a large scale for military use.

Debashis Chanda, the UCF assistant professor heading the project, noted that the team has been contacted by multiple companies to help fund more research, according to extremetech.com.

Although Chanda has said that invisibility cloaks are a long way off from hitting the public market, scientists have already begun experimenting with metamaterials and silk to create Harry Potter-esque invisibility cloaks.

While it may be out of the hands of the general public for now, it does signal a significant scientific advancement and opens up new possibilities.

After suffering through years of scraped knees and bee stings, an instant way to heal any wound seems wonderful, yet impossible. The ability to fight diseases in an instant, though, is becoming ever more viable through nanotechnology currently in development by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

As bacteria evolve, they become more resistant to current antibiotics. Because of this, it has become a crucial priority for medical officials to find any kind of long-term replacement for antibiotics.

DARPA’s solution is “Rapid Adaptable Nanotherapeutics” — a treatment that involves injecting microscopic, self-functioning, drug-delivering particles into a person’s blood stream. These particles carry medication to any part of the body and put them into a targeted cell.

DARPA is looking into loading these nanoparticles with small interfering ribonucleic acid (RNA), known as siRNA, a class of molecules that can target and shut down specific genes that are responsible for certain diseases.

The method was built as a response not just to bacterial and viral infections but to the threat of biological attacks. Its effectiveness was demonstrated last year after four monkeys survived a deadly strain of the Ebola virus after being injected with Ebola-targeted siRNA nanoparticles.

It’s still not cleared for public use, but it poses many questions for the future, both as a threat to the billion dollar antibiotics industry, and whether it can be done quickly and with the unprecedented versatility that DARPA hopes for.

These are not the only breakthroughs. Science is still in the process of making other technological leaps such as artificial intelligence and integrating computers into contact lenses.

These ideas once thought to be confined to the realm of fiction seem more and more possible as we look forward into the (hopefully) promising future of the 21st century.

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