Volume 2, Issue 4 
4th Quarter, 2007

Upgrading Humans - Technical Realities and New Morals

Kevin Warwick, Ph.D.

Page 3 of 5

image 5
Image 5: Implant

Image 5 shows what I actually had implanted.  This is 100 silicone electrodes.  We see the wires moving off from them. This was surgically implanted into the median nerve fibers of my left arm. It gave a bidirectional access to the internet, to the computer.  When I move my hand the neural signals could be translated by the computer into signals that could operate a robot hand, or operate any piece of technology.
I was able to drive a wheelchair around directly from neural signals. We are looking at this in terms of:  could this be used directly in a person's brain?  For us it was a little bit safer, I guess, to use it in my nervous system rather than my brain for experimental purposes.  But also we wanted to feed in signals to see what we could actually do to  stimulate my brain to give me different sensory input.

image 6
Image 6

I'll give you some examples of what we actually achieved -- this is my wife (Image 6) and she is wearing some jewelry that was put together by a student of the Royal College of Art.

The jewelry changes color from red to blue, so when this was connected to my nervous system, by way of the implant, we could pick up either movement signals or motor signals of one type or another, and pick out different indications, for example, excitement.  One way of operating it was when I was calm and relaxed, my wife's jewelry was a cool blue, and when I got excited the jewelry flashed red.

Now if you can imagine - Irena, my wife, works in a different place than me, so she's walking around with the jewelry on and it is a cool blue.  Fine, no problems at all, he is just nice and relaxed.

Then it starts flashing red:  What is he doing?  And more importantly, who is he doing it with?  So I don't know whether it is that good of an idea.

image 7
Image 7

This is a picture of me in New York City, Columbia University and the real-time computing lab. What the guys there helped me do was to put my nervous system onto the internet live in real-time.  I am not sure whether anyone else has actually done that even now.

I moved my hand in New York and my neural signals were transmitted across the internet to Reading, to the UK, in order to move a robot hand.

When the robot hand moved, it mimicked my hand movements.  It then gripped an object, and we got signals fed back from fingertip sensors in the hand to -- back across the internet -- to stimulate my nervous system, literally to stimulate my brain. What I was getting was a change in current frequency stimulations.  The more the hand gripped, the more the current pulses I received personally by my nervous system to my brain.

I was trying to get the robot hand on a different continent to grip an object, to apply a particular force to an object.  It extended my nervous system across the internet. I have to say that worked very, very well.  I have to thank the guys at Columbia for allowing us to work with them on that one.

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Image 8

In the next image, we see the extrasensory input.  I have a blindfold on and a Computer Associates baseball cap.  They were one of our sponsors.  Also on the cap are ultrasonic sensors.              

The output from the ultrasonic sensors was fed down to that little sci-fi type of arrangement I've got on which was a radio transmitter receiver.  And it was able to transmit signals from external devices to stimulate my nervous system, and hence to stimulate my brain, sending electro-chemical signals up through my nervous system.

It took about six weeks for my brain to recognize the signals we were sending in, but when we did this particular experiment, as I moved closer to an object and no longer could see it, I was receiving ultrasonic signals that altered the current frequency and was stimulating my brain.  The closer I got to an object, the more current pulses my brain was receiving, the further away from an object, the current pulses died away.

I was very accurately able to decide how far away objects were.  With the blindfold on, I could move around in the laboratory without bumping into things.

When Ian, my researcher, moved a board towards me, the signals increased in frequency.  But what I was trying to do in the experiment was to keep the same distance away from the board to follow the board ultrasonically.

Actually it's not that difficult to do.  This is like a sense that a bat has, and it's extending our range of senses. I was able to use that, and rather more easily than I thought was going to be possible, I guess.

It is the sort of thing that a blind person could use not to repair their blindness, but to give them an alternate sense, or a different type of sensory input. For sighted people, of course, it means they can have extra senses.

Certainly ultrasonic is fine, it works. We have robots that have it, but here we know it's humans.  If anybody wants an ultrasonic sense, fine, we have the technology. It will cost a little bit of money, and involve a little bit of surgery, but you could have it now.



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