John Heylin's Blog Posts

Miniature Electric Generator to Power Your Heart and Body Sensors

November 11 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future
Category: Technology   Year: 2011   Rating: 2

If you’re worried how all that implantable technology you’ll have in your body is going to power itself, the answer may lie with Georgia Tech. “Georgia Tech researchers used zinc oxide wires that scratch against an electrode to generate a current, clearly showing potential for use within the constantly moving body.” The zinc wires rubbing had previously caused serious wear and tear in former experiments (not to mention the fact that zinc dissolves in water aka your body) so the team developed a more “robust” version of the device with added packaging film to protect the zinc wires.

Although the size in the photo is quite large, they believe it will be easy to scale the wires down to the much smaller size of three to five microns in diameter and 300 microns in length (the dot at the end of this period is about 615 microns wide). The only thing they’re waiting for is for production to begin and possibly some hefty investments I’m sure.

The development of body-powered energy devices has been on fire this last year. It seems that the future of devices are in the human body itself. Heat and movement can all be converted to energy to power all the little gadgets we get into our hands, from cellphones to body monitors. Having an implantable power generator makes the most sense in that batteries wouldn’t have to be replaced, and at least maintenance of such devices would be at a minimum.

How far are we from implantable self-powered devices? Some would say we’re almost there and I’d have to agree. The next few years may see implementation, maybe two years before we start seeing it in the consumer world.

Check out more on this device over at the Energy Roadmap

via Medgadget

Hands-Free Photography Concept Not Very Hands-Free But Still Awesome

November 10 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future
Category: Gadgets   Year: 2010   Rating: 1

We’ve thought about it over and over — Why can’t I just take a picture with my eyes? In this latest concept from Mac Funamizu, you can almost do just that.

In this concept, you wear a pair of sunglasses capable of taking photos from the perspective of the user. It tracks the movement of your hands, allowing you to frame the picture, and snaps the photo with a signal from your left eye (being the shutter). Although information on the concept is limited, one assumes that the sunglasses would use the focus of the eye to determine which items the photo will focus on. Reminds me of the movie Strange Days.

Although wildly fantastic, it’s still a product that is capable of existing in the near future. Hand-tracking technology is getting better seemingly every month while the amount of mega-pixels you can cram onto a pinhead is skyrocketing (Ericsson expects to have a cellphone capable of recording HD video by 2012 as well as taking 20 mega-pixel photos). But the one thing we’re learning more and more is that the future of technology isn’t going to be a bunch of specialized devices, but of a single device capable of doing the work of everything else.

via CNET Asia

Man Recieves Titanium Femur Bone, Sadly Cannot Kick Through Walls

November 10 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future
Category: Gadgets   Year: 2008   Rating: 1

An 81-year-old man had his femur bone replaced with a titanium alternative in a surgery that bypasses his need for an amputation.

The surgery happened just outside of Chicago at Weiss Memorial Hospital on Gene Johnson, an elderly man whose femur bone had broken during surgery to repair his artificial hip. The efforts to mend his broken bone proved futile — despite 20 screws and two metal plates his leg gave way yet again. It was then they decided to replace the bone with a titanium one.

Bone replacement surgery has been around for almost four decades though it is “more typically used in patients who suffer from rare bone cancers.” This surgery is unique due to its level of complexity during the surgery which alone took over five hours in arranging the muscles, tendons and veins around the replacement bone.

With people living longer and longer, these kind of drastic actions in order to improve the life of the elderly will become more commonplace, especially as the Baby Boomer generation starts to hit their 60’s and 70’s. The ability to keep people mobile is out there, we just need to start experimenting more with the implementation of such technology. This way when all of us get past our golden age we can still enjoy a stroll around town.

Image: The Kozy Shack (Flickr, CC-Attribution)

Unmanned Helicopter Can Dodge Obstacles on Ground, Rescue Your Ass

November 10 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future
Category: Technology   Year: Beyond   Rating: 1

A large problem with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles is that they cannot avoid objects such as power lines or bridges. It is for this reason UAVs are not allowed in civilian areas here in the US. That could change with new technology being developed at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. “Engineers at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, have modified a commercial civilian UAV helicopter made by Yamaha to be able to see obstacles it encounters.” The ability to dodge objects is crucial for UAVs expecting to fly low to the ground.

The UAV can run off of maps pre-programmed into its system, or it can generate its own map by using a laser scanner built into it. This allows the prototype itself to fly up to 36kph at an altitude of 5 meters around objects in recent trials.

What does this mean for robotics?

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Dean Kamen Unveils Stirling Engine Powered Hybrid Car, Stuns Us All

November 10 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future
Category: Environment   Year: 2012   Rating: 3 Hot

Dean Kamen has jolted the world yet again with his latest contraption — A Stirling engine hybrid car.

The Stirling engine, for those in the dark, is an engine which derives its power from an external heat source. The amazing thing about it is that the heat source can be just about anything, even your own body. Kamen’s car, dubbed “REVOLT,” can run on any conventional fuel, from biodiesel to natural gas.

Despite the practicality of such an engine, development of the Stirling engine in the world has been trying at best. Weird to think that an engine, which runs on heat and was invented in 1816, could fall to the side all these years. But we’re starting to see the Stirling engine pop up more and more these days, especially in large solar arrays.

So when are we going to see this in production?

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New Bionic Hand Gives Us Glimpses of Star Wars, Bionic Bodies

November 07 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future
Category: Gadgets   Year: 2009   Rating: 9 Hot

Touch Bionics, a “leading developer of advanced upper-limb prosthetics” has just made Time’s list of Top 50 inventions of 2008 (coming it at #14).

What’s so amazing about this invention?

For starters, each finger is powered by its own motor. This allows the wearer to individually move their fingers for more accurate manipulation of objects. It’s made of a high-strength plastic resulting in a prosthetic that is lightweight as well as appealing to the eyes. Maintenance of the hand is also very simple. “The modular construction of the i-LIMB Hand means that each individually powered finger can be quickly removed by simply removing one screw. This means that a prosthetist can easily swap out fingers that require servicing and patients can return to their everyday lives after a short clinic visit.” This way you can still have use of the hand while part of it is getting repaired.

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"Prototype This!" Shows Us a Cool Way of Tracking Body Movement

November 07 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future
Category: Gadgets   Year: 2011   Rating: 1

If you haven’t put Prototype This! onto your Tivo account yet, do it. In one of their latest episodes, some of the team try out tracking body movement using camera recognition of symbols instead of that silly looking Gollum suit we’re so familiar with.

The amazing thing about this is not only is the technology and software needed very simple compared to a lot of motion capture tech today, but if programmed right it could track you by your clothing. And while currently you might need to wear a suit covered in patterns the computer is already programmed to follow (maybe a Tron Guy suit?), eventually it could detect places on our bodies and use them as markers. That mole on your arm? Plaid pajama bottoms? Earring? All will help identify your position and aid in tracking your movement.

This could be a big deal for the gaming and cellphone industry.

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Ericsson Expects Cellphones With HD Video Capability by 2012

November 07 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future
Category: Gadgets   Year: 2012   Rating: 6 Hot

Ericsson, one of the largest companies in Sweden, unveiled their plans for a revolutionary new cellphone capable of 20 Megapixel photos and true HD video recording capability.

At the press conference, Ericsson representative Jonas Lundstedt said they see the cellphone of the future as more of a “mobile terminal” than just a cellphone. With the capability to replace objects in our lives with just one great device, Ericsson is following the way of some of the other major players in the cellphone industry by combining services and devices into one simple object.

The day is coming where the cellphone could possibly no longer be called a cellphone, but a terminal like Lundstedt mentioned. When the cellphone can function as a phone, camera, video camera, map, credit card, etc, can we even call it a cellphone anymore? With AT&T recently approving the tethering of the iPhone to other devices such as televisions and other household appliances this forecast isn’t too far off. The all-in-one device may only be a few short years away. Maybe call it a Universal Remote?

via TechOn!

Robotic Jellyfish Could Pave the Way to a Better Robot

November 06 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future
Category: Technology   Year: 2018   Rating: 2

Bump into a jellyfish in the Ocean? Sure it was a real one?

A German company called Festo threw these guys together using some pretty amazing technology that they hope will be useful for future production sites.

“Each is coated with conductive metal paint that draws the robot to a nearby charging station. It also has LED illumination, integrated pressure, light and radio sensors, and 11 infrared light-emitting diodes used for jelly-to-jelly communication.” –

The key is getting the jellyfish (there’s one that floats in the air too) to work together to accomplish tasks. Already they can swarm together and avoid collision through communication, but the real hope is that they can eventually work together.

Building objects with robots requires an assembly line which, if the swarming technology gets refined, will soon be outdated and inefficient. In getting multiple robots to work together to build a single product or structure, you not only save production time but also space. You could build a thousand cars in a warehouse that today only has a hundred car capacity.

If anything, at least you could put them in your fish tank and enjoy the show (Dr. Evil might attach laser beams to them).

via MAKE

New Structure Re-Defines the Term "Mobile Home" by Walking On Legs

November 06 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future
Category: Gadgets   Year: Beyond   Rating: 2

Some crazy smart people over at MIT collaborated with a Danish design group to make a house that moves on legs.

The house, which reportedly can move up to five kilometers per hour, comes equipped with all the necessities for a personal dwelling. “The house is ten feet high, powered by solar panels, and is outfitted with a kitchen, toilet, bed, and wood stove.” What makes this different than a traditional motor home is that it can pass over objects where a tire might have a problem. It can reportedly “turn left and right, move forward and back, and even change height as needed.” In a sense, a true mobile home.

The hope is to eventually create a dwelling capable of climbing hills and navigating over rough terrain. They even hope to build a model which could also float on water for both land and sea adventures.

But is this a practical invention?

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