Brazilian Scientists to Unveil “Iron Man” Suit at the World Cup

robomanBrazilian doctor, Miguel Nicolelis, along with a team of 156 scientists, is choosing an interesting platform to display a new thought-controlled “Iron Man”  exoskeleton. The exoskeleton, which has been in the works since 2002 and has received around $14 million dollars in funding from the Brazilian government, has allowed paraplegics autonomous movement as well as sensory input that mimics touch. On April 24, 2014, a paraplegic took their first steps in the suit. Now, Nicolelis and his team will be having a paraplegic wear the suit and deliver the first kick during the opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil on June 12, 2014. An estimated 65,000 attendees and one billion television viewers will be watching the public demonstration of scientific advancement.

(Source: AFP)

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Neural Implant Provides Hope for Wounded Veterans

MilitaryImplantiStockphoto-1401396428146A program funded by the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is working to develop a way to track and treat psychiatric disorders in wounded veterans. Although most soldiers return with no visible wounds, many have long-term anxiety and post traumatic stress disorders. The DARPA-funded program, which is an extension of President Obama’s 2013 Brain Initiative Project, will be developing a series of devices which borrow technology from prior deep brain stimulation projects. However, rather than stimulating brain activity, these devices will monitor any brain activity to see if there are any abnormalities consistent with developing depression and anxiety disorders. If a condition appears to be developing, the device would then begin to transmit electrical stimulation to treat the condition.

DARPA expects that this revolutionary form of treatment will help to lower the cost of caring for these patients (anxiety disorders alone cost the nation upwards of $42 billion each year), and hope to finalize these devices within the next five years.

(Source: ieeeSpectrum)

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Advanced Robotic Arm Receives FDA Approval

darpafundeddThe DARPA-funded DEKA arm has received FDA approval. The prosthetic is the most advanced of its kind, has the approximate weight of an organic arm, and includes six different user-controlled settings. Dr, Geoffrey Ling who oversaw the project served as a physician in both Iraq and Afghanistan saw many of the difficulties facing veteran amputees, and viewed the DEKA project as a way to give back to soldiers. Now, with the FDA approval the arm has received, Dr. Ling can not only fulfill his goal of helping veterans, but other amputees as well. The DEKA arm has been approved for individuals 18 and older.

(Source: Phys.Org)

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Fist-Sized Robot to Perform Zero-Gravity Surgery

robotastronautsurgerydn25341-1_300-3-1396469189869A company by the name of Virtual Incision paired with researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to push the limits of remote surgery. The team has developed a tiny robot (roughly the size of a fist) that can perform procedures such as perforating gastric ulcers, suturing wounds and performing appendectomies in zero gravity. The robot enters through an incision in the navel where it inflates the abdomen with inert gas to create room for the two, tool-tipped arms to work. The device is then controlled remotely by a human surgeon.

At a time when NASA funding prevents astronauts from keeping a DaVinci robot on board the International Space station, a development such as this provides hope for long term missions in deep space where medical emergencies can be catastrophic. The first experiments testing the robot will begin on earth in the Summer of 2014 in conditions which mimic zero gravity.

(Source: ieeeSpectrum)

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Watson Computer Embarks on Project to Analyze Brain Tumors

WatsonbrainThe IBM Watson super computer has spent its post-jeopardy years working with various medical institutions trying to optimize healthcare. In the clinical environment the supercomputer has been an invaluable asset. It is able to read through thousands of medical journals searching for treatments specifically tailored to each patient in a matter of seconds– an impossible effort for a single human being. Now, Watson’s capacities are being tested even further in a new collaboration between IBM and the New York Genome Center. In this project, Watson will be helping to analyze the genome sequence of 20 patients with a rare form of brain cancer known as glioblastoma, the diagnosis of which gives patients roughly one year of life expectancy.

Watson will analyze the genome data of both the tumor cells, as well the patient’s healthy cells. Then the supercomputer will cross reference medical journals searching for treatments and comparable genome data to help suggest individualized treatment for these patients to the doctors which will either extend the patient’s lifespan or greatly improve the quality of life of these patients during treatment.

(Source: ieeeSpectrum)

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Nano-Robots Installed in Cockroaches

dnaScientists at the Bar Ilan University in Israel have developed a DNA-based nanobot which was successfully inserted into a live cockroach. The DNA nanobots were equipped with fluorescent markers that allowed researchers to monitor where in the cockroach’s body the robot was. The nanobots, despite being inside of the cockroach’s body were able to carry out logical operations, for instance, releasing molecules into the body.

The research team is hopeful about the future of these nanobots in treating and diagnosing diseases. The nanobots could potentially release targeted medication to cells during treatments. As of now, the nanobots have not been tested on mammals, because it is uncertain how their much more complex immune systems will react to the presence of the nanobot. However, researchers are  hopeful that within the next five years, these DNA nanobots will be ready for human trials.

(Source: Popular Science)

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Intuitive’s daVinci Robotic Suite Gets Upgrade and FDA Clearance

da-vinci-xiFor over 20 years, Intuitive has tried to perfect robotic-assisted surgery. Now the company is one step closer with its fourth daVinci model, the daVinci Xi. This new device features four extendable arms with an overhead base and endoscopic attachments. This allows for precision and fluidity in multi-quadrant surgery with minimal incisions; a much-needed innovation for surgeons who perform complex procedures.

The daVinci Xi has received FDA clearance and is expected to revolutionize minimally invasive surgeries.

(Source: medGadget)

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15 Year Old Shiva Nathan Develops Mind-Controlled Prosthetic

shiva nathanRobotic limbs that rely solely on mind-control are quickly moving out of the realm of science fiction and into the day-to-day lives of amputees. One of these robotic limbs is the prosthetic arm developed by 15 year old Shiva Nathan. Nathan’s robotic arm borrows technology from NeuroSky’s Mindwave Mobile headset– a device originally developed to allow users to play games with their mind. The Mindwave Mobile collects data from its built-in electroencephalograph (EEG) then transmits it via Bluetooth to the user’s smartphone or tablet. Nathan hacked the technology so that the EEG would sync to his robotic arm instead.

In the realm of robotic limbs, Nathan’s arm is fairly simple. It cannot distinguish between small gestures the way more sophisticated prosthetics can. However, it does distinguish between resting and active states and can deliver real time movement with just the user’s thoughts. In addition, Nathan’s arm is a much more economic solution as it is made from readily available materials. He has received accolades from various groups to continue his work, and he is now working to develop technology which would allow individual finger movement using eye-tracking technology alone.

(Source: IFLScience)

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Computer Vision System Better than Humans at Detecting Real Pain


There are no accurate scales to determine whether or not a patient is actually feeling pain or how strong their pain is. This is in part due to each person’s varying tolerance to pain and partially because the science on the subject has been very limited. However, researchers at the University of California in San Diego have tried to make determining whether or not a patient is truly in pain more simple by developing a computer vision system. The system has algorithms which determine the slight differences in facial muscle contractions during real and fake pain.

To test the system’s accuracy compared to a trained professional’s ability at determining real pain, subjects were recorded dipping their hand into icy water (real pain), then dipping their hand into a bowl of warm water and feigning an expression of pain. Afterward, the images were fed to the computer vision system as well as shown to trained medical professionals. The trained professionals could only determine true expressions of pain with 55 percent accuracy, while the computer system was accurate 85 percent of the time. The researchers hope that this technology could various uses, including helping ER doctors perform pain assessments.

(Source: ieeeSpectrum)

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Cyborg Arm Makes Music with Amputee Drummer

Professor Gil Weinberg of Georgia Tech creates robots capable of not only playing known music, but also of learning and improvising new music. Now, Weinberg has created a robotic arm for a musician an amputee which has allowed the amputee to play better than the average human being. Jason Barnes is a drummer with a missing arm, Weinberg designed a prosthetic for Barnes which is controlled physically by Barnes’ arm, as well as electronically using electromyography (EMG) muscle sensors in his upper arm, allowing him to adjust the prosthesis’ grip on the stick to control how much it rebounds. The result is that while Barnes cannot control the beat played by the prosthetic drumming arm, the arm does respond to the beat that Barnes is playing by creating an accompaniment and Barnes can pull away when he wants to play without the help of the robotic arm. The prosthesis allows Barnes to play faster and with more stability than any human drummer.

The next step, according to Weinberg, would be to have the prosthesis to be controlled by Barnes’ thoughts. Ultimately, these robotic limbs could be used not only for amputees, but also for humans needing an extra arm during difficult tasks.

(Source: IEEE Spectrum)

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AI’s With Decision-Making and Learning Capabilities May Improve Cost and Quality of Healthcare

aiIt has been nearly three years since super-computer Watson outsmarted human contestants on Jeopardy. Now, that same technology that allowed the super computer to understand and process reams of information in seconds is being adapted for the healthcare industry. In a study done by the Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing, researchers found that the Markov Decision Processes and Dynamic Decision Networks– a system similar to the one used by the Watson computer– was over 50% cheaper and almost 50% more efficient at making diagnosis and treatment decisions in the clinical setting. While researchers have stated that this artificial intelligence is not yet a replacement for treatment by a flesh-and-blood doctor, the technology could be very beneficial in coming years as the population and need for efficient, correct treatment both increase.

(Source:Indiana University)

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Researchers Develop Small, Ultra-Powerful Artificial Muscles

artificial-muscleResearchers at the University of British Columbia have developed an artificial muscle fiber which can be used to power prosthesis, robots and other medical devices. The artificial muscles are made of the same polyethylene  polymer fibers as fishing line and nylon which are both long-lasting and strong. The material is activated when heated and is 100 times as strong as human muscle of the same size, delivering 5.3 kilowatts of work per every kilogram of mass. The material could be used in the future to improve the fluidity of prosthetic use and to develop robots with better mobility.

(Source: MedGadget)

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An Internal Chip to Make Cochlear Implant More Comfortable for User

cochlear implantCochlear implants are arguably the most successful devices to restore hearing for the deaf. Cochlear implants have been around for over 30 years and have since helped over 200, 000 patients. However, while the hardware has been successful in restoring hearing, the nature of the device makes it difficult for users to engage in activities such as swimming, and often limits shower use. In addition, many users feel a certain amount of stigma because of the way in which the external hardware is designed. However, a team of researchers at MIT have developed an implantable low-power signal-processing chip which will provide the benefits of a cochlear implant without any of the external hardware. The developers are hopeful for the advancement, though they say the design still needs to be optimized for use within the human ear.

(Source: IEEE Spectrum)

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LifeHand 2 Bionic Hand Provides Users With RealTime Sensory Information

The LifeHand 2 is the follow up to the original bionic prosthetic hand, LifeHand that was developed in 2009. The LifeHand2 was tested in January 2013 over the course of 3 weeks with a patient who had lost his hand nearly a decade earlier. The tests, which were run by a team of surgeons and neurologists, showed the extent to which the LifeHand 2 provided sensory input to the amputee. In one test, the patient was blindfolded and wore headphones while touching objects using the LifeHand 2, and was able to identify the textures and shapes of small objects. The patient reported how realistic the sensations were, and while the trials lasted only one month due to guidelines, the patient was happy to help in the development of the LifeHand 2 and hopes it will ultimately help all amputees. The LifeHand 2 is still in trials, and it may be several years before it is on the market, though the developers are optimistic about the advances it can bring.

(Source: IFLScience )

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A Virtual Butt Could Better Train Medical Students for Prostate Exams


Prostate exams are typically some of the most difficult for new doctors to perform in part because of the sensitive nature of the test, and partly because of the discomfort these tests may provide for both patient and doctor. However, prostate examinations are vital in detecting and preventing cancer in patients. In order to better prepare students for the real-life scenario of giving a prostate exam, researcher Benjamin Lok, with support from the National Science Foundation, has developed a virtual butt (seriously). The device interfaces with a computer to show a virtual patient, Patrick. The patient discusses his concerns and fears with the examiner before allowing the test to be performed. During the examination, the virtual butt detects pressure and at which points a patient might feel pain or discomfort. The test is currently being used by medical students at Drexel University and the University of Florida. Lok hopes that in the future this will become a standardized simulator used by all medical students in the same way CPR dummies are used today.

(Source: Geekosystem )

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ARMin Robot

Developed by the technical university, EHT Zurich, the ARMin is a specialized robot that provides physical therapy for stroke survivors. The robot is able to help move a patient’s arm in a variety of ways along with visualized exercises displayed on a computer monitor. This provides precise training and can help build muscle memory.  According to a study by researchers at EHT, the ARMin provided better results for patients than those that received conventional physical therapy.

(Source: EHT Zurich)

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Schaft Robotics Wins the DARPA Robotics Challenge

The HPEC would like to extend its congratulations to Schaft Robotics of Japan for their win at the DARPA robotics challenge. The team earned 27 out of 32 points, far outranking any other team. Congratulations again to Schaft and all of the other competing teams.

(Source: InfoWars)

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Touch-Sensing Endoscope


Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital have been testing a new material which will allow them to not only see but feel during an endoscopy. The endoscope is wrapped with an active sensor material which gives surgeons feedback on how much pressure is being applied by the device. Until now, the study has been restricted to sheep brains, however the device shows promise for future use during surgery.

(Source: Medgadget )

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Meet El-E the Robot

El-E is an assistive robot that is explicitly designed to take advantage of this common structure in order to retrieve unmodeled, everyday objects for people with motor impairments. The robot moves with a motorized, wheeled base and is equipped with a laser pointer interface that detects when its owner illuminates a location with an off-the-shelf green laser pointer and estimates its 3D position. This enables a user to explicitly point a 3D location to the robot using a “point-and-click” style of interaction, which provides a direct way to tell the robot which object to manipulate or where to go.

(Source: GeorgiaTech)

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2013 Darpa Robotics Challenge

darpa-robotics-challenge-trialsThis weekend, from December 20-21, the annual DARPA robotics challenge will be hosted in Florida’s Homestead Miami Speedway. The 17 teams competing have developed robots that will complete 8 tasks including, driving vehicles, traversing different terrains, opening valves and moving through debris. The purpose of the challenge is to develop a robot that can assist humans by traveling into areas that are too dangerous for humans and completing complex tasks. The winning team will have their designed used by DARPA..

The HPEC team would like to wish all participating teams the best of luck during the challenge.

(Source: International Business Times )

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