mobile | classic
Dataweek Electronics & Communications Technology Magazine

Follow us on:
Follow us on Facebook Share via Twitter Share via LinkedIn


Electronics Buyers' Guide

Electronics Manufacturing & Production Handbook 2017


From the Editor's desk: The cyborgs are coming, and they are us
11 October 2017, News

Many of the most exciting and life-improving developments in electronics are happening on the biomedical and cybernetics fronts, but they also have the potential to be truly terrifying.

Consider the case of Neil Harbisson, an artist born with the unfortunate affliction of colour blindness – not one of the common types that cause people to confuse certain colours with others, but a much rarer condition called achromatopsia, meaning he can only see in black and white, with no colour perception at all. With help from engineers and surgeons, Harbisson has become the world’s first ‘eyeborg,’ a clever name for an ingenious solution that has changed his life by giving him a way of perceiving colour.

The solution looks like a sort of antenna, with a camera on one end pointing in the direction he is facing and the other end implanted in the back of his skull. A circuit in the antenna converts the images captured by the camera into an audio signal whose frequency changes depending on what he is looking at. Much like a cochlear implant, this audio signal literally vibrates through his skull. Over the course of more than 10 years using the system, he has memorised the colours that correspond to different sounds, effectively augmenting his sight using sound.

After a while, incredibly, he even started to dream in colour. “When I started to dream in colour is when I felt that the software and my brain had united because in my dream it was my brain creating electronic sounds, it was not the software, and that’s when I started to feel like a cyborg. It had become an extension of my senses,” he said. A Wi-Fi interface has even been added to the antenna, allowing him to ‘see’images sent directly from a mobile phone. Potentially this could even result in direct skull-to-skull communication with users of similar devices.

On the subject of brain-to-brain communication, researchers from the University of Washington created an experiment that allowed one participant to control the movement of another participant’s finger. Person A wore an electroencephalography (EEG) cap while playing a video game, and when he saw an enemy he wanted to shoot he would think about pressing a button.

Across campus, person B had the same game playing but with the monitor behind him so he couldn’t see what was going on. Wearing a transcranial magnetic stimulation coil (a device that can emit a focused electrical current) positioned directly over the part of the brain that controlled the movement of his finger, person B involuntarily twitched his finger to shoot the enemy each time person A thought about shooting them. According to person B, the first time this happened he didn’t even realise his hand had moved. Similar techniques have helped give paralysed people the ability to control their limbs by triggering robotic actuators that respond to their thoughts, but being able to control someone’s movements remotely by thought alone, without their conscious knowledge, is as troubling as it is amazing.

People are also increasingly implanting microchips into their bodies, for beneficial reasons such as access control. In an era when cybersecurity is such a profound problem, this is a logical solution as biometrics are commonly seen as the most secure form of identity verification currently available to us. Of course, implanted microchips could also be used to track a person’s whereabouts, with or without their knowledge; to say most people would not be very comfortable with this is an understatement.

One company in the US has given its employees the option of having themselves implanted with RFID chips to control their access to secure areas, photocopiers, office computers etc., and to share business cards, store medical/health information, and be used as payment at RFID-enabled terminals. A Swedish outfit called BioHax has been hired to implant the rice grain-sized devices into the webbing between the thumb and forefinger of consenting employees, but DIY kits have also begun popping up for sale on the Internet for brave souls who trust their own surgical skills enough.

Breakthroughs in cybernetics like these are just the tip of the iceberg, and their true potential is only just being explored. The cyborg revolution is undoubtedly coming – hopefully it will be for the betterment of mankind and not lead to its destruction as often portrayed in movies like The Terminator.

Brett van den Bosch


Supplied By: Technews Publishing
Tel: +27 11 543 5800
Fax: +27 11 787 8052
  Follow us on Facebook Share via Twitter Share via LinkedIn    

Further reading:

  • Electronics news digest
    11 October 2017, News
    South Africa • ICASA councillor and acting chairperson, Rubben Mohlaloga, has ended his term on the communications regulator’s council, following a more than one year stint in the acting chairperson ...
  • Arrow Altech appoints new sales GM
    11 October 2017, Arrow Altech Distribution (AAD), News
    Renato Martins has worked in the electronics industry since 1994, earning valuable work experience through various positions at BMS, Logitech SA and Mimic SA before joining AAD.
  • From the chairman’s desk: Q3 in South Africa
    11 October 2017, AREI, News
    Warren Muir, chairman of AREI, provides an update on how the local electronics sector is doing, and some of the Association’s latest happenings.
  • Win a Microchip MCP6N16 evaluation board
    11 October 2017, News
    Dataweek and Microchip Technology are giving away two boards designed to provide an easy and flexible platform when evaluating the performance of the MCP6N16, a zero-drift instrumentation amplifier designed ...
  • Appointment
    11 October 2017, News
    Avnet South Africa has appointed Engela Minnar as field application engineer for IoT, embedded and connectivity products.   
  • Raspberry Pi fans jam in SA
    11 October 2017, RS Components (SA), News
    Jointly hosted by RS Components and Entelect Software on Saturday, 16 September, 40 people attended the first South African Raspberry Pi Jam, an event bringing together enthusiasts of the credit card ...
  • Company profile: Sigma Communication Systems
    11 October 2017, News
    Sigma Communication Systems is a wholly South African owned and managed specialist in communications and RF technologies. It was founded in 2003 with the objective of designing and building communication ...
  • Electronics news digest
    13 September 2017, News
    Overseas    Business • ON Semiconductor announced financial results for the second quarter of 2017. Total revenue was $1,34 billion, up approximately 52% compared to the same quarter last year, but was ...
  • Effort required to manage ICT e-waste
    13 September 2017, Arrow Altech Distribution (AAD), This Week's Editor's Pick, News
    Arrow Value Recovery Services specialises in reducing the environmental impact of e-waste by recycling ICT products through lifecycle programmes that recondition and return them to the business ICT stream.
  • SKA to cooperate with CERN on big data
    13 September 2017, News
    The agreement establishes a framework for collaborative projects that addresses joint challenges in approaching Exascale (on the order of billions of Gigabytes) computing and data storage.
  • From the editor's desk: Tech entrepreneur vs. electronic engineer
    13 September 2017, Technews Publishing, News
    I was fortunate to be invited to a business breakfast hosted by AREI (Association of Representatives for the Electronics Industry) at which the guest speaker was renowned businessman and entrepreneur, ...
  • Minister emphasises sustainability during National Science Week
    13 September 2017, News
    Eastern Cape learners turned up in their thousands to attend the launch of the 2017 National Science Week (NSW) at the newly renamed Nelson Mandela University. Hosted at the institution’s Missionvale ...

Technews Publishing (Pty) Ltd
1st Floor, Stabilitas House
265 Kent Ave, Randburg, 2194
South Africa
Publications by Technews
Dataweek Electronics & Communications Technology
Electronic Buyers Guide (EBG)

Hi-Tech Security Solutions
Hi-Tech Security Business Directory

Motion Control in Southern Africa
Motion Control Buyers’ Guide (MCBG)

South African Instrumentation & Control
South African Instrumentation & Control Buyers’ Guide (IBG)
Terms & conditions of use, including privacy policy
PAIA Manual


    Classic | Mobile

Copyright © Technews Publishing (Pty) Ltd. All rights reserved.