July 20, 2013

Human Augmentation Short Course -- Part III

The next two #human-augmentation flash lectures from my micro-blog, Tumbld Thoughts will feature several potential implementations of Intelligence Augmentation (IA), Augmented Cognition (AugCog), and its integration with smart devices. This includes two topical areas: I (Bio-machine Symbiosis and Allostasis), and II (Augmentation of Touch).

I. Bio-machine Symbiosis and Allostatis

The book "The Symbiotic Man" by Joel DeRosnay can be used to frame a graphical discussion on bio-machine symbiosis (e.g. human-smart home interaction) and the concept of mixed allostatic networks. In this case, the symbiotic relationship is between a biological system and a technical one. While there are fundamentally different dynamics between these two types of systems, the fusion of their interactions are not only possible but essential.

As discussed in previous slides, measurements from a human can be used to provide intelligence to the house (in this case, scheduling and other use information). A mitigation strategy can be used to extract information from the collected data and provides instructions for machine learning.

Measurement of the human can be taken on physiological state (e.g. measurements of brain activity or state monitoring of other organs). This can be done using microelectronics, and the measurements must cross a semi-permeable boundary which is selective with respect to available information. Nevertheless, this network allows us to construct a consensus approximation of the body's homeostatic control mechanisms.

This allows us to construct mixed allostatic networks. A mixed allostatic network includes elements from both the house (e.g. appliances) and the human body (e.g. organs). This has already been done by integrating body area networks and domotic networks.

The key innovation here is to unite the function of both networks under global, allostatic control. When the allostatic load of this network becomes too great, this information can be used to modify the mitigation strategy. This may be done in a manner similar to DeRosnay's Symbionomic Laws of Equilibrium.

II. Applications related to the Augmentation of Touch

In this installment of the #human-augmentation tag, we will discuss an assortment of applications that have the potential to augment the sense of touch and upper body mobility. 

The first technology was recently featured in IEEE Spectrum's startup spotlight. The Italian startup Prensilia [1] is working on a robotic hand called Azzurra. The fully artificial hand mimics human grip by using underactuated movements. Inside the hand, the rotary motion generated by a motor is translated to linear actuation to produce biological (e.g. muscle generated) types of motion.

The second technology features the DARPA initiative to create better prosthetic arms. In this video from IEEE Spectrum, the work of Dean Kamen and his group at DEKA Research is profiled. This type of prosthetic arm uses bioelectric signals from chest muscles in combination with servo motors to enable both fine motor and ballistic movements.

The third technology is simulated touch, which unlike the last two does not explicitly involve artifacts. Touch is a physical phenomenon, as contemplated in this Minute Physics video. However, touch also involves human perception, as discussed previously on Tumbld Thoughts. A thourough understanding of this sense allows us to build better ways to interact with virtual environments and robots using touch [2]. 

COURTESY: Chapter 4 from [2b].


[1] Cipriani, C.   Startup Spotlight: Prensilla developing robot hands for research, prosthetics. IEEE Spectrum, July 18 (2013).

[2] The second image from bottom is a LilyPad Arduino project. For more information on the engineering of touch, please see these two books:

a) McLaughlin, M.L., Hespanha, J.P., and Sukhatme, G.S.   Touch in Virtual Environments: haptics and the design of interactive systems. Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ (2002).

b) Bicchi, A., Buss, M., Ernst, M.O., and Peer, A.   The Sense of Touch and its Rendering. Springer, Berlin (2008).

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