Welcome!

Article

The Technology of Healing: From Feet To Follicles

Technology Leads to Healing

Back in the mid-seventies a popular TV series called The Six Million Dollar Man featured a badly injured astronaut who had both legs, one arm and an eye replaced by "bionic" enhancements.

At the time it all seemed pretty far-fetched, but forty years later medicine has made some staggering advances. Indeed such is the range of electronic and mechanically-assisted body parts available now, they probably surpass even the wildest of the program-makers' ideas!

From The Ground Up

Anyone who has watched paralympic sports can't fail to be impressed by two things: first, the huge disadvantages that humans are able overcome, and second the technology associated - both in terms of the specialist equipment for wheelchair athletes and the prosthetics for amputees. "Bladerunners" have now become commonplace and Alan Oliveira, despite having no lower legs, has used these advanced carbon-fiber limbs to run the hundred meters in a remarkable 10.77 seconds.

Away from the track, those blades are practically useless (it's extremely difficult to actually stand still), but there are many advances in prosthetic alternatives. Jozef Metelka is known as the man with 13 legs. Although that might sound a little bizarre - perhaps even overkill - there are good reasons for his many options.

Even with all the advanced science and technology at our disposal, we can't yet produce a leg that mimics the one most of us are born with. We can't replicate the tremendous strength and flexibility in a single unit. However, we can create them to suit specific purposes so, for example, when a titanium bolt was found to freeze in the cold conditions associated with skiing, a high-performance plastic was used instead. For mountain biking, a leg with a built-in shock absorber was designed. For road cycling, a streamlined carbon-fiber version, etc.

The same level of ingenuity and skill is being used for hands and arms. The tiny electrical signals that muscles produce can now be used to activate real-life bionics, opening and closing the hand and even allowing use of a pen or computer mouse. Currently, external sensors need to be used (normally attached to the skin), but work has already begun on the idea of brain implants.

Under The Hood

Of course it's not just outside the body where technology has gone hand-in-hand with medical advances. Hip replacements are commonplace. Heart pacemakers are now so small they can be fitted via the femoral artery - in around ten minutes - and without invasive surgery. Fantastic as that might seem, there are now entire plastic hearts available. Currently they are used as temporary replacements until a suitable donor organ can be found, but how long until permanent versions bring waiting lists down to virtually nothing?

And other body parts?Developments in artificial pancreases offer hope to Type 1 diabetes sufferers. Cochlear implants are helping people with all manner of hearing problems. Light sensitive micro-chips are bringing hope to blind and partially sighted. Deep brain implants are restoring motor functions to those who "freeze" due to Parkinson's Disease.

Facing The World

Sometimes it's just being able to face the world that's a challenge. Today's prosthetics can be electro-mechanical marvels, but often they still look like part of some weird robot.

Fortunately, advances in plastics and "fake" skin have made many items much more wearable - often difficult to tell from natural appendages. There are other less technological, but equally important advances, such as in wig technology for those with alopecia or recovering from radiation or chemotherapy. Human hair is carefully oriented to be truly naturalistic. Methods of attachment vary, taking into account increased skin sensitivity or allowing the wearer to take part in numerous sports.

The Real Six Million Dollar Man

The extraordinary advances in medical science, bionics and prosthetics is underlined by roboticists Rich Walker and Matthew Godden of the UK's Shadow Robot Co. In October 2013 they built what is claimed to be the world's first fully bionic man.

Created entirely from human prosthetics and replacement organs, he not only has working arms and legs but lungs, a heart, a spleen and even a working circulatory systems carrying blood. What's all the more amazing is that although inflation would make our original six million dollar man many times more expensive today, this experimental creation - arguably the closest thing to a human ever built - cost around $1 million.

We're may still be some way from seeing replacements for every part of our bodies, but little seems beyond us. It would appear it's no longer a question of if, but when.

More Stories By Drew Hendricks

Drew Hendricks is a writer, as well as a tech, social media and environmental enthusiast, living in San Francisco. He is a contributing writer at Forbes, Technorati and The Huffington Post.

Latest Stories
With more than 30 Kubernetes solutions in the marketplace, it's tempting to think Kubernetes and the vendor ecosystem has solved the problem of operationalizing containers at scale or of automatically managing the elasticity of the underlying infrastructure that these solutions need to be truly scalable. Far from it. There are at least six major pain points that companies experience when they try to deploy and run Kubernetes in their complex environments. In this presentation, the speaker will d...
While DevOps most critically and famously fosters collaboration, communication, and integration through cultural change, culture is more of an output than an input. In order to actively drive cultural evolution, organizations must make substantial organizational and process changes, and adopt new technologies, to encourage a DevOps culture. Moderated by Andi Mann, panelists discussed how to balance these three pillars of DevOps, where to focus attention (and resources), where organizations might...
The deluge of IoT sensor data collected from connected devices and the powerful AI required to make that data actionable are giving rise to a hybrid ecosystem in which cloud, on-prem and edge processes become interweaved. Attendees will learn how emerging composable infrastructure solutions deliver the adaptive architecture needed to manage this new data reality. Machine learning algorithms can better anticipate data storms and automate resources to support surges, including fully scalable GPU-c...
When building large, cloud-based applications that operate at a high scale, it's important to maintain a high availability and resilience to failures. In order to do that, you must be tolerant of failures, even in light of failures in other areas of your application. "Fly two mistakes high" is an old adage in the radio control airplane hobby. It means, fly high enough so that if you make a mistake, you can continue flying with room to still make mistakes. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Le...
Machine learning has taken residence at our cities' cores and now we can finally have "smart cities." Cities are a collection of buildings made to provide the structure and safety necessary for people to function, create and survive. Buildings are a pool of ever-changing performance data from large automated systems such as heating and cooling to the people that live and work within them. Through machine learning, buildings can optimize performance, reduce costs, and improve occupant comfort by ...
As Cybric's Chief Technology Officer, Mike D. Kail is responsible for the strategic vision and technical direction of the platform. Prior to founding Cybric, Mike was Yahoo's CIO and SVP of Infrastructure, where he led the IT and Data Center functions for the company. He has more than 24 years of IT Operations experience with a focus on highly-scalable architectures.
CI/CD is conceptually straightforward, yet often technically intricate to implement since it requires time and opportunities to develop intimate understanding on not only DevOps processes and operations, but likely product integrations with multiple platforms. This session intends to bridge the gap by offering an intense learning experience while witnessing the processes and operations to build from zero to a simple, yet functional CI/CD pipeline integrated with Jenkins, Github, Docker and Azure...
The explosion of new web/cloud/IoT-based applications and the data they generate are transforming our world right before our eyes. In this rush to adopt these new technologies, organizations are often ignoring fundamental questions concerning who owns the data and failing to ask for permission to conduct invasive surveillance of their customers. Organizations that are not transparent about how their systems gather data telemetry without offering shared data ownership risk product rejection, regu...
René Bostic is the Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America. Enjoying her career with IBM during the modern millennial technological era, she is an expert in cloud computing, DevOps and emerging cloud technologies such as Blockchain. Her strengths and core competencies include a proven record of accomplishments in consensus building at all levels to assess, plan, and implement enterprise and cloud computing solutions. René is a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and a m...
Dhiraj Sehgal works in Delphix's product and solution organization. His focus has been DevOps, DataOps, private cloud and datacenters customers, technologies and products. He has wealth of experience in cloud focused and virtualized technologies ranging from compute, networking to storage. He has spoken at Cloud Expo for last 3 years now in New York and Santa Clara.
Enterprises are striving to become digital businesses for differentiated innovation and customer-centricity. Traditionally, they focused on digitizing processes and paper workflow. To be a disruptor and compete against new players, they need to gain insight into business data and innovate at scale. Cloud and cognitive technologies can help them leverage hidden data in SAP/ERP systems to fuel their businesses to accelerate digital transformation success.
Containers and Kubernetes allow for code portability across on-premise VMs, bare metal, or multiple cloud provider environments. Yet, despite this portability promise, developers may include configuration and application definitions that constrain or even eliminate application portability. In this session we'll describe best practices for "configuration as code" in a Kubernetes environment. We will demonstrate how a properly constructed containerized app can be deployed to both Amazon and Azure ...
Poor data quality and analytics drive down business value. In fact, Gartner estimated that the average financial impact of poor data quality on organizations is $9.7 million per year. But bad data is much more than a cost center. By eroding trust in information, analytics and the business decisions based on these, it is a serious impediment to digital transformation.
Digital Transformation: Preparing Cloud & IoT Security for the Age of Artificial Intelligence. As automation and artificial intelligence (AI) power solution development and delivery, many businesses need to build backend cloud capabilities. Well-poised organizations, marketing smart devices with AI and BlockChain capabilities prepare to refine compliance and regulatory capabilities in 2018. Volumes of health, financial, technical and privacy data, along with tightening compliance requirements by...
Predicting the future has never been more challenging - not because of the lack of data but because of the flood of ungoverned and risk laden information. Microsoft states that 2.5 exabytes of data are created every day. Expectations and reliance on data are being pushed to the limits, as demands around hybrid options continue to grow.