There is a company out there with the mindset that even a George Orwell and his 1984 wouldn’t be able to comprehend.
Like his classic novel, MC10 out of Cambridge, Massachusetts, is turning our fantasies into a reality. It might be the shirt on your back that can monitor your vital signs and conform to your body with every beat of your heart, or how about a sensor under the skin, or even a tattoo (yes, a tattoo!) that can monitor and track the most intimate of human biological processes?
MC10 and its revolutionary electronic technology are conducive to human functionality – stretchable, lightweight, and conformal – almost like they aren’t there at all.
MC10 has already teamed up with Reebok, the world famous shoe brand, on what is called the CheckLight – a piece of headgear worn by athletes to measure the force of blows to the head – something that is increasingly important as we learn about the prevalence of concussions in high impact sports like Football.
These innovations could one day lead us to a new dawn for mankind; one where people like you and me will be outfitted with electronic devices. It might be something we swallow, or get implanted, or even get a “smart tattoo.” Imagine the possibilities and the new heights we could reach in health care, the military, athletics, and even everyday business and the way people communicate. It’s not beyond our reach.
And people are already living this way. A man named Amal Graafstra, according to The Seattle Times, has implanted radio-frequency identification tags into his skin that allow him to get into his car, home or computer with the simple wave of his hands. It works so well, in fact, that he has sold the same rice-sized gadgets to more than 500 customers through his company Dangerous Things.
Could it be a fad, or the next wave of the future? It’s debatable. Critics have gone so far as to call this technology intrusive and even sacrilegious.
Others see a world of great potential; one where we could control computers, prosthetic devices, and retrieve information simply by asking ourselves a question.
If we can imagine it, it just might come true.
Take one step out into the field of battle and you see that our modern day soldier is covered with many pounds of equipment. If you could help him or her, wouldn’t you want to?
These soldiers are equipped with night vision goggles, flashlights, radios, and other electronic devices that weigh a soldier down, mostly because of the weight of the batteries that are needed. These same batteries demand a fresh supply, which means soldiers are risking their lives just to make deliveries out into the field.
The military is now working on a solution that would outfit soldiers with wearable solar panels and bionic knee braces that work to harness the sun’s energy and recharge a soldier’s electronic devices.
Cutting the need for batteries saves money on fuel costs used when a convoy makes a delivery into the field, and at the end of the day, it saves lives by not taking unnecessary risks.
These solar panels (woven into a soldier’s uniform) and bionic braces cause no problems in mobility. The solar panels would generate an average of 18 watts of power per hour, according to Mashable, and become a huge energy supplement. The brace would be rechargeable, generating 10 to 12 watts of electricity every hour from its 2.2-pound battery that would supplement the 10 to 13 pounds of batteries a soldier carries, and would eliminate the need for added weight from backup batteries.
The next phase of development is to ensure that these new devices are camouflaged and don’t reflect the sun or emit heat that might give up their position.
The military objective: reach a point of “net zero”, or a point where there is enough energy that a backup battery isn’t required.
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This phenomenon is going beyond the aid of our military. Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) made a patent public in November that proposed an electronic skin tattoo for the throat, according to The Seattle Times – with a built in microphone, battery, and wireless transceiver – you could operate and control other devices with simple voice commands.
Granted, Google has countless patents, a lot of which will never see the light of day, but ideas like this don’t seem so far-fetched anymore.
Even Google CEO Larry Page has been quoted as saying, “Eventually you’ll have an implant, where if you think about a fact, it will just tell you the answer.” They’ve clearly got their head in the clouds.
UC Berkley researchers are toying around with implanting thousands of tiny sensors into people’s brains for optimal functionality. Stanford is using its research to help Parkinson’s disease patients with an electronic device that can adjust to electrical impulses felt from a patient to alleviate symptoms.
The medical field as a whole could see the most immediate impact of this electronic technology.
Last year, Proteus Digital Health won approval to sell a pill that relays a person’s vital signs directly to their doctor, all with this technology.
Still, critics will urge that it is unnatural, and some may go so far as to call it the work of the devil, but isn’t it really just humans realizing their full potential? If we can help each other; help ourselves, than I believe it is our right and privilege to do so.
Public opinion, for the most part seems to lean for advances that can help our way of life, not ignore it. That’s why the work of MC10 and others is so groundbreaking. It could help people tremendously.
MC10 currently has a contract with the military, developing a temporary tattoo-like bandage to the skin that would wirelessly transmit vital signs to a phone or other device. They have plans to introduce something similar to the public as soon as next year. And the CheckLight, you can buy that right now from Reebok.
The phone maker Nokia (NYSE: NOK) has a tattoo in the works that would vibrate when a phone call is received, or could serve as a password.
MICROCHIPS out of Massachusetts, have an implant that it wants to use that automatically gives patients their daily dose of medicine. And other chips are in developmental stages that could help with eye sight, restore memories, and help with cognitive functioning.
This wild way of life, where electronics are literally at our finger tips and in every breath we take, is the future of mankind.
In the next ten to twenty years we will see rapid development of ideas like what I’ve shared, and man and machine will be closer than ever before.
Look at the cell phone you carry with you everywhere you go. That wasn’t there twenty years ago.
Enjoy the ride!