Remote Controlled Mice Today, Remote Controlled Humans Tomorrow
Remote Controlled Mice Today, Remote Controlled Humans TomorrowYou may not have to wait until the year 2154 for your own remote-controlled body. Mark Stephen Meadows discusses wetware technology and how the science-fiction of Avatar is quickly becoming science fact.
During a radio interview in December of 2009, I was asked, "Do you think the vision of Avatar is something we'll see in the future?" I paused for a second and made my Jake Sully wish list. What do we need to make Avatar happen, roughly?
First is data transfer; you have to be able to drive the system at a distance. The myoelectrics and BMIs can work locally, and we've also seen that they can work at a distance. So, remote control; we've seen the U.S. Army driving UAVs this way. Check.
Second is output. You have to think to affect the interface. You'll be lying down in a tank and you'll be rigged up to some kind of myoelectric or BMI (or combination thereof) interface. We've seen Cyberdyne and Honda both driving robots this way. Check.
Third is input. Pumping the arms and legs is one thing, but there's a bigger trick of moving sensory data into your head. Moving data into your little vampire-coffin isn't the problem, but getting visual data into your eye could be. We've learned a bit about retinal implants and cochlear implants functioning today, so it seems that visual or auditory information could be converted from analog to digital, or vice versa, and could be sent into and out of the brain. Now, whether we end up having to break the skin to get it there is another question, but with that magic 144 years of future stirred in, let's call it a check. So those are the outlines for a remote neuroprosthetic.
Fourth is the system-the avatar itself.