There are so many things that can be embedded into the human body it will only be a matter of time before we will be able to interface with any machine.
Sensor-studded clothing worn by a soldier tracks his movements and vital signs. A disposable electrocardiogram machine the size of a Band-Aid monitors a heart patient. A cellphone is implanted in a tooth. Scientists and engineers are trying to develop such â€œembeddedâ€ devices: miniature electronics that plug people into computer and communication networks.
Consider contact lenses that function as computer screens. A University of Washington research team, led by electrical engineering professor Babak Parviz, has developed a prototype lens fitted with a tiny radio (for receiving data) and a light-emitting diode, or LED (for displaying data to its wearer). The technology has prompted comparisons to the computer readouts that flash in the eyes of the cyborg in the Terminator films.
In theory, the device converts electronic signals into ever-changing displays projected onto the contact lens and visible to the wearer, perhaps like a movie subtitle. If wirelessly connected to, say, a smartphone with voice-recognition software, a hearing-impaired person wearing such lenses might see a speakerâ€™s words translated into captions.
But engineers developing such embedded technologies face a big obstacle: power. The devices pack so much gadgetry into such tiny spaces that even the smallest batteries would be too bulky, never mind the inconvenience (and potential discomfort) of replacing them.