Human integration

Almost since there have been computers, and possibly longer, people have dreamed about directly connecting them to human beings. Augmenting memory, directly controlling machines, facilitating communications are just some of the forms these dreams might take. Personally I would be happy never having to type again since by the end of the day my hands always hurt.

In Scientists activate neurons with quantum dots, R. Colin Johnson reports that University of Texas scientists are making real progress in human-machine interaction. Their idea is to stimulate particular neuron clusters, non-invasively, using some kind of programmable stimulator. Such basic research is years away from being generally available but shows much promise of a feasible solution.

In A Chip ID That’s Only Skin-Deep, David Streitfeld reports on a company called Applied Digital Solutions of Palm Beach that is about to commercialize a very basic form of HMI. Their product is a simple and small implantable chip targeted at people with artificial organs and limbs. The chip can hold up to 60 words of relevant medical information but must be read by a special scanner. Another near-term potential application is a personal ID but this raises serious privacy questions.

The future, one might say, gets closer every day.