8 Medical Technologies That Seem Straight From Sci-Fi
eLEGS invention, via Berkeley Bionics video
We have a soft spot for inventions that can radically improve someone's life, and with the upcoming premiere of Dean of Invention on Planet Green tomorrow night, it got us thinking about some of the more radical technologies we've seen come out of labs lately. Check out 8 of our favorites, including a brain-controlled wheelchair, legs that help paraplegics walk again, nano-ink tattoos that monitor blood sugar in diabetics, and more.Robotic Skin
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have made a breakthrough in creating a touch-sensitive "skin" for robots. The "e-skin" helps robots gauge how much pressure they're putting on something they're grasping, allowing it to switch from heavy to fragile objects without the need for reprogramming. But the e-skin also has important implications for people with prosthetic limbs -- it could restore the sense of touch.
A new wheelchair created by researchers at Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne combines brain messages with artificial intelligence to provide a new level of mobility to paralyzed people. A scull cap worn by the user sends brain signals, such as imagining moving your right arm to go right or your left arm to go left, to the chair as commands, and the chair combines the commands with artificial intelligence and data from two webcams installed on its sides to maneuver around things like chairs, tables and other obstacles.
Microscope on a Cell Phone
Aydogan Ozcan and a team of researchers at U.C.L.A. have developed a device that can be attached to a mobile phone and image cells in a whole new way. Rather than zooming in on the cells themselves, the new scope images the shadows of semi-transparent cells. Researchers are able to check out blood samples and better detect diseases present in the samples thanks to the imaging, and the fact that it is on a cell phone allows the images to be sent quickly to nearby hospitals for assessment and diagnosis.
Vibrating Cameras as Eyes
This is one we're hoping will go from drawing board to reality. A concept device by designer Noam Klopper could turn a blind person's hands into their new eyes. Called the VIA, or Visually Impaired Assistant, it looks a little like a Bluetooth device but is worn on the hands. It uses video motion detection technology along with four video cameras and a voice-operated GPS receiver to detect a person's surroundings, and then uses vibration mechanisms to guide the wearer safely around obstacles.
Read about 8 more inventions that transform lives, from liquid glasses to printed skin cells to a bionic arm straight out of Star Wars.
A Car for the Blind
Researchers at Virginia Tech and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) have demonstrated a prototype for a customized Ford Escape that allows a blind person to drive the vehicle entirely independently using sensors to detect a driver's surroundings and give non-visual feedback to allow the driver to navigate safely. The unimaginable is suddenly a possibility for those with vision difficulties.
Typically, the inventions coming from the labs at Berkeley Bionics help add strength and endurance to people traveling long distances with heavy loads, such as military personnel. However, they've upped the bar, so to speak, and unveiled eLEGS, an electronic exoskeleton that helps people walk, giving new options for strength training and mobility to paraplegics.
Medical Devices Powered by Body Fluid
French researchers have created a fuel cell powered by blood that is more powerful and smaller than current pacemaker batteries. This is the first glucose-powered fuel cell to actually work inside a living body. The device was housed inside the rat for 11 days and accessible via wires which stuck out the rat's neck -- it worked for the entire time, powered completely by the rat's body fluids. The testing is creepy and far from PeTA approved, yet it could still one day be a medical breakthrough helping to keep people alive.
Nano-Ink Tattoos for Diabetics
Rather than having to prick one's finger several times a day to monitor glucose levels, people with Type I diabetes could simply get a new tattoo with nano-ink that can continuously monitor the amount of sugar in their blood stream, thanks to research being done at MIT. Their new sensing system would be a tattoo of nanoparticles that can detect glucose, and a device like a wristwatch worn over the tattoo. The nanoparticles fluoresce when they com in contact with glucose, and the sensor gives an output reading of the levels detected.
Find out more about the crazy cool inventions explored by Dean Kamen and co-host Joanne Colan on the new show Dean of Invention on Planet Green.
Follow Jaymi on Twitter for more stories like this
More about Awesome Inventions
Dean of Invention: Is Human Waste the New Coal?
Dean of Invention: Can Microscopic Robots Cure Blindness?
About Dean Of Invention: A New Show Dedicated To The World's Greatest Scientific Breakthroughs Of Today