If you think that every great invention has already been invented, think again. Scientists in labs around the world are busy creating technologies that will change the way we conduct business and live our lives.
They are producing completely new technologies that could soon transform computing, medicine, manufacturing, transportation, and our energy infrastructure. Here are just a handful.
Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System
Restoring sight to the blind is the stuff of miracles and sci-fi movies—until now. Develop by Second Sight, the Argus II is a device that works to restore vision to those suffering from complete or partial blindness. It does this by capturing images via a mini video camera in the glasses which is then transformed into instructions that are picked up by an implant placed on the wearer’s eye. Once received, the implant sends the instructions to an electrode array which then sends the visual information to the brain via the optic nerve.
The implant is an epiretinal prosthesis surgically implanted in and on the eye that includes an antenna, an electronics case, and an electrode array. The external equipment includes glasses, a video processing unit (VPU) and a cable.
Wearable technology is here. People have tried to make smart glasses before with very little luck. Google’s are the first that work well. Google Glass is a wearable computer with a head-mounted display (HMD) that displays information in a smartphone-like hands-free format, that can interact with the Internet via voice commands. While the frames do not currently have lenses fitted to them, Google is considering partnering with sun glass retailers and may also open retail stores to allow customers to try on the device. The Explorer Edition cannot be used by people who wear prescription glasses, but Google has confirmed that Glass will eventually work with frames and lenses that match the wearer’s prescription.
It has the ability to take photos and record video. While video is recording, a recording light is displayed above the eye, which is unnoticeable to the wearer. It also utilizes many Google applications, such as Google Maps. You can ask questions, get directions, send messages and much more.
If you ride a bike in a major city like NYC, you know how dangerous it can be. The Chaotic Moon helmet won’t keep you any safer than a regular helmet, but it will come in handy if you’re hit by a car. The helmet is equipped with seven mini-cameras that record video at 30 frames per second at 720p. The effect is a 360-degree view of your surroundings as you ride and can capture your accident as it happens.
Mind-Controlled Cybernetic Limbs
Disabled men and women may gain cyborg limbs if researchers at UC Irvine have their way. A team of engineers at the university have developed a pair of mind-controlled robotic legs that “walk” in response to a person thinking “I want to walk now.” The legs are currently in prototype and the UC Irvine team plans to start tests on the disabled soon.
Injectable Tissue Engineering
Every year, more than 700,000 patients in the United States undergo joint replacement surgery. The procedure in which a knee or a hip is replaced with an artificial implant is highly invasive, and many patients delay the surgery for as long as they can. Jennifer Elisseeff, a biomedical engineer at Johns Hopkins University, hopes to change that with a treatment that does away with surgery entirely: injectable tissue engineering. She and her colleagues have developed a way to inject joints with specially designed mixtures of polymers, cells, and growth stimulators that solidify and form healthy tissue. “We’re not just trying to improve the current therapy,” says Elisseeff. “We’re really trying to change it completely.”
Elisseeff is part of a growing movement that is pushing the bounds of tissue engineering, a field researchers have long hoped would produce lab-grown alternatives to transplanted organs and tissues. For the last three decades, researchers have focused on growing new tissues in the lab. While this approach has had success producing small amounts of cartilage and skin, researchers have had difficulty keeping cells alive on a larger scaffold. And even if those problems could be worked out, surgeons would still have to implant the lab-grown tissues. Now, Elisseeff, as well as other academic and industry researchers, are turning to injectable systems that are less invasive and far cheaper. Many of the tissue-engineering applications could be delivered by syringe rather than implants, and Elisseeff is pushing to make this happen as soon as possible.