March 2007


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Archive for March 18th, 2007

The State of Cyberpunk

Posted in Geekery on March 18th, 2007

One of the underlying stanchions of the Cyberpunk genre is that someday we will be able to control computers and other electronic gizmos with our brains rather than having to use control interfaces such as keyboards, mice or joysticks. A networking adapter socket is installed somewhere on your person, and you simply plug in a cable and off you go.

Well, according to this article at Computerworld, we have stepped closer to this goal.

While the device being used here is very much the Sci-Fi staple of a “control helmet” consisting of a colander on your head covered with electrodes, the theory is the same. Electronic sensors sense the change in the electric fields in your brain as you move through your thought processes. These signals are then interpreted by software into command codes, which are then sent on to the device being controlled.

The theory is sound, and has been in research for many years at this point. The big news here is that the research group has the device down to a mostly-portable size and working with a respectable level of success. From here, the research team should be able to both increase the accuracy and reduce the size in a fairly linear fashion – one could almost apply Moore’s Law at this point with a fairly reasonable accuracy.

With current studies in nanotechnology, the opportunity is also present to begin working on a way to manufacture the sensor grid in such a manner so that it could be implanted between the skull and the skin – relieving you of the necessity of wearing a control helmet.

One of the most obvious uses for technology of this nature (to me anyway) is to more closely integrate the operation of a replaced limb. Instead of having some sort of physical interface for control, one would merely think “extend arm, grasp glass firmly, bring to lips and tip”. Considering the number of recent war veterans who have lost limbs in combat, I can’t imagine they would have a shortage of volunteers for testing.

This also brings us to a second stanchion of Cyberpunk: willfully exchanging your limbs for cybernetic replacements with built-in enhancements. Again, all the recent amputees have resulted in a surge of research into replacement limbs, which have become quite complex.

So now, all of the pieces are in place for Stage One of the Cyberpunk Revolution: control interface, advances in computer technology, and a large number of amputees who don’t feel threatened by the addition of more technology into their lives or bodies. At current levels of research and miniaturization, I would say the first actual “cyberlimb” will be installed before 2012.

Place yer bets, folks.