Feb 09

Arduino IDE 1.6.0 is Here With Some Nice Features

Arduino just released version 1.6 of their IDE. I have to say it’s really nice to have a non-beta release that supports the DUE and Yun in addition to the rest of the Arduino family. The interface hasn’t changed, so it’ll feel very familiar to anyone who’s used the Arduino IDE in the past but there have been nice tweaks:

  • The drivers are signed for Windows and Mac
  • The serial monitor has been re-written on a modern JSSC serial library
  • Board Detection in the Ports sub menu (This worked for all the boards I tested except the Micro)
  • Ability to display Line numbers in the IDE

Here is a screenshot with both the line numbers and the board detection:Arduino IDE 1.6.0

Great stuff, I highly recommend getting your copy today here: Download Arduino IDE 1.6.0

Jun 08

Human Robotics

I recently finished reading The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology by Ray Kurzweil. It was a fascinating (and a little scary) read that discusses the coming merging of biological life with robotics.The book goes into how Nanotechnology, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics will transform humanity. For those of you who don’t know Ray Kurzweil he is an inventor, author and futurist.  He theorizes that we’ll see the first steps as technological solutions to biological failings and as the technology is developed and made more reliable and affordable we’ll begin to see people using it to “enhance” our native abilities. The book, written in 2005 was ahead of its time. Ray Kurzweil was right to deduce that robotics would soon be used to enhance the human race. Right now in 2012, we are in the midst of the first phase of this process; finding technological ways to duplicate natural abilities and functions.

One of the more successful examples of this is the cochlear implant which gives people who are deaf a sense of sound. This works by sending a signal through electrodes attached to the inner ear. This is an amazing device that can restore one of the 5 senses but it’s really just the beginning. It is also possible to use electrodes implanted in the brain to read the intentions of a person and the technology to do this is currently in the human clinical testing phase. This may sound like science fiction but researchers have recently release a video of a paralyzed woman who is able to control a robotic arm with just her mind:

The magic behind this is the BrainGate2 Neural Interface System. It is a microelectrode array that is implanted directly into the brain (the box you see on the woman’s head in the video is the connection point for the interface). The project originally allowed users to control a cursor on a screen. Through a training process the users learned how to move the cursor left, right, up, down and click. With the new pairing of the robotic arm the user learns to send the arm commands on a 2 dimensional plane and also send commands to grip and tilt the bottle.

This technology is still in the early testing stages however assuming it successfully completes the clinical trials and becomes a standard way to interface the brain with technology it could become possible to replace limbs with robotic versions. Beyond that it may be possible to implement a complete exoskeleton that would restore a person’s ability to walk or allow someone to take their first steps.

With the popularity of other forms of human enhancement such as cosmetic surgery, performance enhancing drugs and body modification and the increasing pace of technological acceptance (think how quickly smartphones became the norm) it is not that much of a stretch to imagine a world where people will voluntarily choose to get a neural implant or a prosthetic limb to enhance their natural abilities or give them a 6th sense not capable with natural biology. Today, with the use of our smart phones, many of us constantly have internet capabilities at our finger tips. Is it unreasonable to think that at some point in the future people may choose to have one surgically implanted? This kind of body modification may be to the next generation what tattoos and body piercings where to our generation…. taboo at first, but now widely accepted.

I for one am very excited to be living in a time when this technology is right on the horizon. It opens up the possibility of living much longer and productive lives.