MIT engineers use a “natural battery” in the ear to power implant
Following in the same track of research into “ultra-low-power” medical devices as other MIT researches earlier this year, a team of researchers from MIT’s Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infimary (MEEI) demonstrated the ability to directly harness electrical energy from the inner ear without impairing hearing.
The cochlea, a portion of the ear unique to mammals, translates sound vibrations to the eardrum into electrochemical signals for the brain to process, making it into a “natural battery”. Although scientists have understood this process for years now, it was considered dangerous to attempt experimentation with the inner ear since it could result in a loss of hearing. This experiment is the first to demonstrate that it is possible to tap into this energy source without producing any hearing loss
Man climbs 103-story skyscraper with “neural-controlled bionic leg”
If you thought that bionic limbs were a mere showcase technology, still decades away from fruition or practical application, the folks at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) have some news for you.
On November 4, 2012, Zac Vawter, a single-leg amputee and research subject for RIC, performed a stunning practical demonstration of the capabilities of RIC’s neural-controlled bionic leg. As part of the charity event, SkyRise Chicago, Vawter climbed 2,109 steps to Willis (formerly Sears) Tower’s observation deck.
The bionic leg is the latest step in the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago’s work with neural-controlled prosthetics, and represents a large leap in the safety and reliability of such technology. While researchers and engineers have succeeded in producing neural-controlled fingers and arms in the past, legs were considered a challenge due to the increased safety risks associated with them: If a bionic arm fails during use, you aren’t likely to do much more than drop what you’re carrying, but if your bionic leg fails, you could quite easily be injured from a fall. In this case, a fall down a 103-story skyscraper.