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Posts from the ‘Technology’ Category

11 Things Star Wars Could Learn From Healthcare Today

I’m an enthusiastic Star Wars fan, however, as the Medical Futurist I cannot help but see what medical technologies the episodes featured. The digital health innovations we have today are so amazing that they could even improve the futuristic Star Wars universe. I binge-watched all 7 episodes to find the 11 most interesting technologies we already possess, but Star Wars — despite ubiquitous space travel and lightsabers, does not.

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1. Instant wound healing?

The most obvious discovery was that laser guns are common weapons in Star Wars but there is no instant wound healing, but we have it today. A sponge-filled syringe that was announced in December, 2015, was designed to close up gaping gunshot wounds in seconds.

2. Plastic surgeons?

Between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, Anakin Skywalker develops a scar over his right eye. When the scar appeared in Revenge of the Sith, there was no explanation as to how it got there. If he had access to a plastic surgeon, such skin problems could be resolved easily.

3. Anesthesia?

Still in episode 3, when Anakin is burnt and loses his legs, robot surgeons work on him while he is in great pain. I kept on wondering why. They had no painkillers and anesthesia? No cold liquid therapy for the burnt tissue? Moreover, they put the mask on him while the skin was still not intact and susceptible to infections.

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4. Food scanners?

In the opening scene of Episode 1, Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi drink what the droid brings to them without checking exactly what the drink contained. Food scanners such as Tellspec orScio will become available in 2016. These tools can tell us what we have on our plates or in our glasses.

5. Biomarkers?

If midi-chlorians, the microorganisms that reside within all living cells and communicate with the Force, are in the blood and can be measured with handheld tools (as seen in Episode 1), why are there no clear blood biomarkers with which people could be screened to become Jedi apprentices easily?

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6. Diagnostic devices?

Anakin finds his mother by using a really fast vehicle, but when he gets there and his mother is dying, there’s no way to rush for medical help, or to use a hand-held diagnostic device to discover how to treat her?

7. Supercomputers?

In episode 4, Han Solo says it takes a few minutes to get the coordinates from the navicomputer for faster space travel. While there are robots with artificial intelligence and free will such as R2D2, and a robotic midwife in episode 3; there are no smart artificial intelligence systems onboard starships? IBM Watson could easily navigate the Millennium Falcon thousands of times faster.

8. Smart clothes?

In the The Empire Strikes Back, Luke almost freezes to death on the icy planet Hoth. They use state-of-the-art spaceships but there are no smart clothes to keep them warm and safe?

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9. Skin tissue on robot prosthetics?

The fact that Luke’s arm didn’t bleed when Darth Vader cut it off, no matter how the lightsaber could cauterize his skin and tissues, is one thing, but Luke’s robotic arm in episode 6 looks much more lifelike than Anakin’s metal one in episode 2. I guess a prosthetics startup could have disrupted the galaxy’s industry in the meantime. A few more years and Organovo could print out skin tissue with their 3D bioprinters in real.

10. Cloning issues?

Stormtroopers featured in Episode 2 were cloned from bounty hunter Jango Fett and look alike. But this doesn’t mean that they should have the exact same phenotype, an individual’s observable traits, in their adulthood. Genetics loads the gun, lifestyle pulls the trigger — meaning even though two people might have the same genetic background, but the chance of being exactly the same physically is very small. Look at identical twins who grew up in different environments.

11. Symptoms after waking up from carbonite hybernation?

Finally, when Han Solo wakes up from the carbonite state, he should be feeling way worse than he does on screen. Symptoms would include serious vomiting, dehydration, headache and even more. He might have been lucky to “only” temporarily lose his vision.

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There are also some good ideas though. In the underwater scenes of episode 1, Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi wear a device on their mouths that lets them breath in water. When Padmé gives birth to Leia and Luke in episode 3, the movie features a weirdly shaped, quite futuristic birth bed and a robotic midwife armed with artificial intelligence is overseeing the whole process.

If you watch the episodes again by and keep your eyes open, you might catch even more ways our world could help the one of Rey, Luke and Han Solo. Until then, I keep on being a fan and cannot wait to think about what futuristic medical solutions the new episodes will feature.

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Top 10 Science Fiction Technologies That Arrived in 2015

As a science fiction fanatic, it’s exciting to see sci-fi in real life. Technologies that we have only seen in movies before are now transforming our everyday lives. We’re connected 24/7, across the globe by smartphones; driverless cars navigate safely in traffic; and houses are printed out. The same is happening in healthcare, even if we don’t yet feel this when we go to the GP’s office. Here are the top 10 stories that made healthcare feel like sci-fi in 2015:

1) 3D Printed Cast

Scott Summit from 3D Systems might have been the first patient ever to have a shower with a 3D printed cast on his arm. It is personalized to his arm, really cheap and easily replaceable. A Spanish startup Exovite is turning it into a product anyone can buy. Their cast also includes electrodes to prevent muscles from atrophying under the cast.

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2) Seeing Veins Under the Skin

A new device called VeinVeiwer Vision2 uses near-infrared light to generate real-time imagery of a patient’s veins. Taking blood – without damaging blood vessels or causing excessive pain – won’t just depend on the skill and the experience of phlebotomists.

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3) Kidney Tissue Grown in Lab

Lab-grown kidney tissues were successfully transplanted into animals. This is the first step towards making biomaterials transplantable into patients. Steps such as this make me hope for a near-future without organ donor waiting lists.

4) Cheap Prosthetics For Kids

The E-Nable project brings cheap, 3D printed prosthetics to underdeveloped regions. The parts can be replaced easily and the whole prosthetic device can be assembled by anyone. A lot of regional E-Nable projects were launched in 2015.

5) Augmented Reality in Medical Education

Microsoft will release its augmented reality head-mounted device in 2016 but they published the first videos about how it could be used in medical education and the future of medical training. Imagine studying anatomy by literally looking at 3D body parts in front of your eyes. I wish I was a medical student now.

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6) Pacemaker Without Surgery

A new wireless pacemaker with a battery life of over two decades can be implanted without surgery and was found safe in a clinical study. It is implanted similarly to stents: through a vein in the leg.

7) Hacking The Pancreas

A cute story about a couple showed the merits of empowered patients and citizen scientists. The husband is an engineer and the wife has diabetes. As diabetic patients face very low or very high blood glucose levels during the night, an alarm system for either extreme would be very useful, but is currently not available. They created one with DIY methods. Their solution gained fame, and might be turned into a product soon.

8) The Digital Contact Lens

A Novartis chief announced that the digital contact lens would come out in 2016. The patent about the technology belongs to Google, but the pharmaceutical company teamed up with them to provide better treatments in diabetes by letting the lens measure blood glucose from tears.

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9) Microchip Under The Skin Monitors Vital Signs

A new medical device – in effect a small microchip – can be implanted under the skin and allows for precise, real-time medical monitoring. With this invention, any vital sign or health parameter could be measured and monitored. The patient wouldn’t have to keep anything in mind or actively partake in the process.

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10) Smart Bandages Detect Infections

Next generation bandages include microchips that measure basic health parameters and also detect infections in their early phase. This way bed sores could be prevented in time.

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Hearing these news made me really excited about the future. I’m sure 2016 will bring even more technologies straight out of science fiction medicine, so keep an eye out!

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There Will Be No Mars Generation Without These Technologies

I wrote an article about what digital health technologies the Mars Generation will need to survive the journey to the Red Planet. It is published on Futurism.

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An excerpt:

NASA is set to send astronauts to orbit Mars and return them safely by the mid 2030s. And a manned landing on the Red Planet will soon follow. However, this work will be in vain if health technology does not advance.

You can read about these technologies on Futurism:

  1. Medical 3D printers
  2. Wearable and implanted body sensors
  3. Full genomic analysis
  4. Artificial intelligence that draws conclusions from health data
  5. Telemedical solutions for remote care
  6. Thin exoskeletons
  7. Engineering in biotechnology
  8. Surgical robots

How I Optimized My Sleep With Technology

As a data geek, I’ve been quantifying my health for over a decade, measuring different aspects of my life in order to improve it.

For years, I was frustrated by the quality of my sleep. One day, I’d wake up refreshed after just 6 hours of sleep, but another I spent fatigued, even after getting the “recommended” 8 hours of shuteye. Given how important proper sleep is to brainpower, health and overall well-being, I wanted to optimize how I spent my nights.

As many struggle to get a good night’s sleep, I decided to lay down how I measured, understood and optimized mine. Here’s my guide to sleeping better with technology.

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Getting started with improving sleep quality: Finding the problem

A mistake people often make when wanting to use technology to live better is rushing to buy a wearable device. Devising a way to optimize your life is up to you. A wearable can only show you data, which won’t be actionable if you don’t know what should be changed.

As each health tracker has different features, you must find the one that can solve YOUR problem. So the first step is understanding the problem itself.

I knew I wasn’t satisfied with my sleep quality, but to understand more, I started scoring my sleep every day. To learn exactly what I measured, check my free, step by step guide to hacking sleep.

Measuring sleep quality

Making a simple graph in an Excel spreadsheet made it clear that I regularly make mistakes before going to bed, as my subjective sleep quality often plummeted. But the change in quality didn’t depend greatly on time spent sleeping, or other often cited factors in sleep quality. So the scores helped me realize there are many things to improve, but without precise data about sleep quality, the best I could hope for was trial and error approach. To dig deeper into what made certain nights refreshing and others frustrating, I needed more data. It was time to look for a wearable device.

I purchased a small device, Withings Pulse, which, worn on the wrist, measures sleep quality. I chose it because it offers detailed sleep data such as how much time it took to fall asleep; how long light and deep sleep periods I had; and that is what I needed. It was also affordable with a cost of about 90 EUR.

One thing I often hear people worry about is wearing a tracker for the rest of their lives, but don’t worry! I only wore the device daily for about a month when optimizing my sleep. Nowadays I just put it on every other month or so – when I feel something’s amiss with my sleep quality.

In a week, I learnt more about my sleep than in decades before. It confirmed it doesn’t matter whether I sleep for 7 or 9 hours, as long as I have at least one long deep sleep period. Crucial information that flies in the face of common sense.

Improving sleep quality based on data

Now that I had found out how high quality sleep looks like for me with help from Withings Pulse, it was time to find out how to get more of it. The device couldn’t help me do this, so it was time for some experimentation.

I started compiling a list of things I should and should not do before going to bed. I tried each and measured its impact. If something like increased exercise or eating a certain type of food increased my time spent in REM sleep, I noted it down, then tried another. In another week, I learnt I should not exercise after 8 pm or check my phone before falling asleep. These things, among others, definitely ruin my sleep quality.

Upgrading my health with technology

I couldn’t have done it without data and experimentation. But with a simple and affordable device, my sleep quality today is not random, but consistently great and I don’t need to sleep with a device anymore. When I sleep badly for two consecutive days, I re-measure to make sure I’m still on the right track.

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This free guide is only part of the story of upgrading my health with available and affordable technology. As well as improving sleep, this strategy helped me be more active, improve cognitive capacity and reduce stress. If you want to learn how health technology enables us to live a better life, check out my recent book, My Health: Upgraded.

The Future of Gaming Is Here and Will Produce Athletes

A few weeks ago I wrote about future video gamers becoming athletes.

As technology today doesn’t just get upgraded, but improves at an amazing pace; it might have some surprises for us in the coming years. What if video games assisted by virtual reality devices and whole body sensors would increase the experience of being inside a game by moving in real life? What if gamers will have to run in real to let the character in the game run faster? This area is called exergaming and it is about to boom.

Today I saw the announcement about the Omni + Vive/Lighthouse Demo and immediately thought that It’s not just coming, but it’s already here. See it yourself:

This integrated setup results in a fully decoupled first-person shooter experience with two independent pistols. Players can walk forward, backwards and sideways in 360 degrees on the Omni independently from their looking and aiming directions. Just imagine, now you can take out your targets while running backwards, looking forward, and shooting left and right at the same time! This level of freedom of movement in VR is a new milestone for us and creates the fun VR experience we always dreamed of.

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Transporting Lab Samples With Drones? What Else?

The news article of the day award goes to FastCoExist that gave an awful title to its story about how drones could deliver lab samples. They said drones could take urine samples from your own bathroom.

The reason why this issue came up is that getting samples analyzed in big labs is safer than in smaller ones. But because of the distance, drones could do the hard job.

“Currently many, many couriers drive one or two lab samples over long distances (over 50 miles) because there is a medical need for it,” says Amukele. “However, the cost (gas, driver salaries, wear and tear) is incredibly high, especially for rural areas, and makes no sense. This occurs in both rich and poor countries.”

Drones don’t care about poor roads, either, another advantage in rural or developing areas. But the regulation of drones currently stands in the way of using them for medical purposes. Amukele doesn’t see that changing for a decade.

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Last year, there was a demonstration about using drones in emergency at the University of Delft in the Netherlands.

What else could be delivered by drones?

Medical equipment?

Drugs to rural areas?

What else? Please share your ideas!

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Health & Transhumanism: Zoltan Istvan Interviewed Me

I’m happy to share that Zoltan Istvan who is a futurist and 2016 US Presidential candidate of the Transhumanist Party interviewed me about my new book, My Health: Upgraded and the methods that help us improve our cognitive skills. I hope you will enjoy reading it.

It’s an exiciting time to be alive with so much incredible medical technology affecting our lives. As a transhumanist, I couldn’t be happier about that fact. But understanding all that we can do to our bodies both now and in the future is complex business. I had a chance to catch up with Dr. Bertalan Mesko, and ask him to tell us about his new book, My Health: Upgraded, which covers the field of modern and futurist medicine. Mesko is a medical futurist with a PhD and MD in genomics from the University of Debrecen, Medical School and Health Science Center. His work has been covered broadly in major media.

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