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Sensitive Synthetic Skin in the Works for Prosthetic Arms

Carbon nanotubes key to making synthetic skin that lets artificial limbs sense heat and touch

4 min read

4 January 2008—By combining carbon nanotubes with a specially designed polymer, researchers are making a material that looks, feels, and functions like human skin. The synthetic skin could lead to next-generation prosthetic arms with which users can feel a light touch, shake hands, cook, and type naturally.

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), in Tennessee; NASA; and the nonprofit National Institute of Aerospace (NIA), in Hampton, Va., plan to have a 6-square-centimeter patch of the synthetic skin ready by the end of next year. ”With this technology, the artificial limb will come much closer to its human counterpart,” says ORNL researcher and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) liaison Art Clemons.

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
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A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic
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Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

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