In Chicago’s gang wars, social media can fuel lethal street violence, in WIRED
But yeah, comic books are an eruption. They contain irrational pressure on the status quo. They seem to be begging you to see things differently. They’re uncomfortable. Where they came from is bizarre; where they’re going is bizarre.
New article from me at Wired:
In one episode of Black Mirror — the British television series that explores the near future of technology with an edginess reminiscent of The Twilight Zone — a woman’s husband dies, and she replaces him with a robot.
This walking automaton looks like…
A team of specialists has designed a bionic prosthetic leg that can reproduce a full range of ambulatory movements by communicating with the brain of the person wearing it.
The act of walking may not seem like a feat of agility, balance, strength and brainpower. But lose a leg, as Zac Vawter did after a motorcycle accident in 2009, and you will appreciate the myriad calculations that go into putting one foot in front of the other.
Taking on the challenge, a team of software and biomedical engineers, neuroscientists, surgeons and prosthetists has designed a prosthetic limb that can reproduce a full repertoire of ambulatory tricks by communicating seamlessly with Vawter’s brain.
A report published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine describes how the team fit Vawter with a prosthetic leg that has learned — with the help of a computer and some electrodes — to read his intentions from a bundle of nerves that end above his missing knee.
For the roughly 1 million Americans who have lost a leg or part of one due to injury or disease, Vawter and his robotic leg offer the hope that future prosthetics might return the feel of a natural gait, kicking a soccer ball or climbing into a car without hoisting an inert artificial limb into the vehicle.
Vawter’s prosthetic is a marvel of 21st century engineering. But it is Vawter’s ability to control the prosthetic with his thoughts that makes the latest case remarkable. If he wants his artificial toes to curl toward him, or his artificial ankle to shift so he can walk down a ramp, all he has to do is imagine such movements.
The work was done at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago under an $8-million grant from the Army. The armed forces hope to apply findings from such studies to the care of about 1,200 service personnel who have lost a lower limb in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We want to restore full capabilities" to people who’ve lost a lower limb, said Levi J. Hargrove, lead author of the new report. "While we’re focused and committed to developing this system for our wounded warriors, we’re very much thinking of this other, much larger population that could benefit as well."
The report describes advances across a wide range of disciplines: in orthopedic and peripheral nerve surgery, neuroscience, and the application of pattern-recognition software to the field of prosthetics.
Weighing just over 10 pounds, the leg has two independent engines powering movement in the ankle and knee. And it bristles with sensors, including an accelerometer and gyroscope, each capable of detecting and measuring movement in three dimensions.
Most prosthetics in use today require the physical turn of a key to transition from one movement to another. But with the robotic leg, those transitions are effortless, Vawter said.
"With this leg, it just flows," said the 32-year-old software engineer, who spends most of his days using a typical prosthetic but travels to Chicago several times a year from his home in Yelm, Wash. "The control system is very intuitive. There isn’t anything special I have to do to make it work right."
Before Vawter could strap on the bionic lower limb, engineers in Chicago had to “teach” the prosthetic how to read his motor intentions from tiny muscle contractions in his right thigh.
At the institute’s Center for Bionic Medicine, Vawter spent countless hours with his thigh wired up with electrodes, imagining making certain movements on command with his missing knee, ankle and foot.
Using pattern-recognition software, engineers discerned, distilled and digitized those recorded electrical signals to catalog an entire repertoire of movements. The prosthetic could thus be programmed to recognize the subtlest contraction of a muscle in Vawter’s thigh as a specific motor command.
Given surgical practices still in wide use, the prospects for such a connection between a patient’s prosthetic and his or her peripheral nerves are generally dim. In most amputations, the nerves in the thigh are left to languish or die.
Dr. Todd Kuiken, a neurosurgeon at the rehabilitation institute, pioneered a practice called “reinervation” of nerves severed by amputation, and Vawter’s orthopedic surgeon at the University of Washington Medical Center was trained to conduct the delicate operation. Dr. Douglas Smith rewired the severed nerves to control some of the muscles in Vawter’s thigh that would be used less frequently in the absence of his lower leg.
Within a few months of the amputation, those nerves had recovered from the shock of the injury and begun to regenerate and carry electrical impulses. When Vawter thought about flexing his right foot in a particular way, the rerouted nerve endings would consistently cause a distinctive contraction in his hamstring. When he pondered how he would position his foot on a stair step and ready it for the weight of his body, the muscle contraction would be elsewhere — but equally consistent.
Compared with prosthetics that were not able to “read” the intent of their wearers, the robotic leg programmed to follow Vawter’s commands reduced the kinds of errors that cause unnatural movements, discomfort and falls by as much as 44%, according to the New England Journal of Medicine report.
Vawter said he had “fallen down a whole bunch of times” while wearing his everyday prosthetic, but not once while moving around on his bionic leg.
He said he could move a lot faster too — which would be helpful for keeping up with his 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter. But first, Vawter added, he needs to persuade Hargrove’s team to let him wear it home.
Do car radios have a future? - Media Report - ABC Radio National (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
Tuning in to local radio stations on long family car trips, listening closely to traffic and news reports on commutes to work, and cruising around with friends, flicking the dial in search of the best tunes available—the radio is the soundtrack to many of our car travelling experiences. But is the future more about pre-programmed music and downloaded podcasts than the serendipity of flicking on to a radio station at just the right time?
Interesting piece on how GPS, 4G and social media apps may change how we listen to information in the car.
As mobile devices dictate the terms of search and how results are being conveyed to end users, there’s another phenomenon that will greatly influence the future of search - very soon, we’re going to be swimming in more data than we will know what to do with.
The rise of the Internet of Things means billions of physical objects will soon generate massive amounts of data 24 hours a day. Not only will this make traditional search methods nearly impossible to use, it will also create an environment where instead of looking for things in the world, those things will be seeking us out to give us all sorts of information that will help us fix, use or buy them.
I posted the first half of a two part series summarizing my recent Social Now keynote over at GigaOM Research.
Stowe Boyd, The Future Of Work In A Social World – Part 1
Work — at the level of the economy, business, and individual — is changing more quickly that it has ever changed before. We all need to understand the forces impacting us as a society, as participants in businesses, and as individuals making our way in this world. Where is it headed, and why?
I’m starting with the bottom line first. This is where we are headed in this talk: this is in fact one of the final slides, the conclusion. My purpose is to get across that these tightly interlinked terms represent a break with the ‘present of work’, not as a fad, but as a necessary adaptation to economic and societal changes that are larger than business, like urbanization, the rise of the social web, and the increased levels of competition in a globalized world economy, and what that means for us all as business leaders, professionals, and individuals.
[… 20 something slides and comments]
That’s one half of the talk. I will post the second half early next week, but here’s a teaser: Based on the narrative above, I will take a close look at the differences between the postmodern institution of business processes and the emerging postnormal reliance on social networks, which I believe are being displaced. Lastly, I propose the 3C Model of Organizational Culture, a psychosocial approach to characterizing the changes in our organizations as we struggle to thrive in a fast-and-loose postnormal world that relies on networks and pull rather than processes and push.
Here’s a peek, without the juicy details:
A really great post about robots and journalism!
Can Robots Tell the Truth?
Hi, I am a student in journalism and am preparing an article about robots (like the Washington Post’s Truth Teller) validating facts instead of journalists. I am curious to know the Future Journalism Project’s point of view of about this. What are the consequences for journalists, journalism and for democracy? — Melanié Robert
Many thanks for this fascinating question and my apologies for the delay in getting back to you. Here’s what happened:
I started thinking about this, and then I started writing about it. And then I started thinking that what I really needed to do was some reporting. You know, journalism.
I didn’t know much about the Washington Post’s Truth Teller project. For others that don’t, it’s an attempt to create an algorithm that can fact check political speeches in real time.
Since I didn’t know much about it about I got in touch and interviewed the two project leads: Steven Ginsberg, the Post’s National Political Editor, and Cory Haik, the Post’s Executive Producer for Digital News.
They gave me background on Truth Teller and how it came about, and then where they hope it leads.
But that doesn’t really get to the sociocultural and philosophical questions you pose. So I called upon someone else. His name is Damon Horowitz.
Damon’s spent his career in both artificial intelligence and philosophy. He’s currently Google’s In-House Philosopher (seriously, it’s on his business card) and Director of Engineering. He also teaches philosophy at Columbia University.
So, after talking to these people, and thinking about it some more, I wrote a fair bit.
You can find your answer at theFJP.org and I hope it answers some of what you’re looking for. — Michael
Have a question? Ask Away.
Image: Marvin the Paranoid Android, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.