kestrell: (Default)
I was reading _The Octopus and the Orangutan_, which is about anecdotal stories concerning animal intelligence, and it mentioned a prosthetic project I had not heard of before, namely, a conference where a bunch of biologists and engineers worked together to develop a prosthetic arm based on the design of the octopus tentacle. A cool thing about octopus tentacles is that a significant portion of the octopus's neurons are in the tentacle itself, and the neurons may even be unique to each tentacle, so yes, the right tentacle may not know what the left tentacle is doing.

Anyway, I couldn't find any information on the project mentioned in the book, but I did find information about another project, this one designed by a female university student.
kestrell: (Default)
Kes: It would be great to find more stories like this, perhaps with people creating their own superheroes with disabilities.

From the Daily Bits Web site

block quote start
Anthony Smith is a four-year-old boy who has medical conditions, including total deafness in his right ear and some hearing loss in his left. He has been using a hearing aid, but as things go with little boys, he just suddenly didn’t want to wear the device anymore.

His reason?
Superheroes do not wear hearing aids.

Parenting perspectives aside, how do you argue with a little kid about superheroes not wearing hearing aids?

Fortunately, Anthony’s mom seems to be quick on the ball. After hearing her son reason his way out of wearing his hearing aid, she got in touch with the guys at Marvel Comics via e-mail. To be honest, I am actually surprised that they got back to her. Just imagine the volume of e-mails they must receive!

In any case, the Marvel’s response is brilliant. They sent back an image of Hawkeye, who suffers from 80% hearing loss. This was in reply to Anthony’s mom asking for an example of a superhero who uses a hearing aid.

It gets better. Marvel created a new superhero just for Anthony. They call him Blue Ear, and guess what? He is named after Anthony’s hearing aid, Blue Ear.
block quote end
kestrell: (Default)
Kes: lots of interesting examples of neuroprosthetics in this article, and the journalist actually tries out one of the non-invasive devices; I'll also point out that the Dept. of Defense funds most of these projects, not jus the one mentioned in the article.
kestrell: (Default)
Kes: As mentioned in the note for this Instructable, this is really intended to be created by a person who is trained in creating prosthetics. An ill-formed proshetic can cause pain, infection, and even permanent damage, so use common sense when modding prosthetics--it's the most useful sense we have.
kestrell: (Default)
A friend pointed me to the ongoing conversation going on at Slate
"Debating Extreme Human Enhancement: Should We Use Nanotech, Genetics, Pharmaceuticals, and Augmentations To Go Above and Beyond Our Biology?"

I'm following it, but I'm finding it kind of...boring.

One reason is that very little in the conversation seems to have changed since I did piles of research for my thesis
six years ago.

Probably the most interesting aspect to the conversation is that, similar to my thesis, science fiction media is being used --by a mainstream publication, no less-- to illustrate both sides of the argument.

Where the conversation totally fails for me is that it's both theoretical and talks about the tech as if it's in the future.

It's here and now, boys.

Anyone who adopts technologies to replace a missing or misfiring limb, sensory organ, or cognitive process,is perfectly aware of the pros and cons because we live with it every day.

We're not, as the "I don't want to be a cyborg" guy so pointedly refers to one of his fellow debaters, "an enthusiast." We're not passive adopters: we note the bugs and mod the designs constantly.

We're also not trying to enslave you into our cyborg revolution, thank you (and is it just me, or does anyone else find the title of that guy's book, _Liberal Eugenics_, to be something of an oxymoron? and he implies that the *cyborgs* are the ones like Daliks??)
continued below cut )
kestrell: (Default)
(Kes: irony 1alert)
"When amputees participate in sports, they call it courageous. Once you become competitive, they call it cheating." Hugh Herr
kestrell: (Default)
Kes: I've mentioned The Eyeborg Project previously--it's a man who had his prosthetic eye implanted with a camera hooked up to a live webcam--and in his YouTube video, he travels the world talking to other cyborgs on the subject of augmentation
Deus Ex: The Eyeborg Documentary - YouTube
YouTube home
kestrell: (Default)
Kes: In addition to this specific Instructable
the Open Prosthetics Project
has an Instructables group
and this group also includes plans for urning a WII controller into a mouse for people with hand disabilities
mouse for ppl with hand disabilities
kestrell: (Default)
This article is over a year old, but it covers he basic concepts. No sure he level of tech is adequate for eye prosthetics, as these need to be particularly sterile and smooth, but 3D printing would offer more opportunity for modding, while still be incredibly cheaper--anybody could be an Aimee Mullens, with a prosthetics wardrobe to cover a variety of needs and social situations.
Added later: a second NY Times article with some more details about a person making custom-designed prosthetics
kestrell: (Default)
This was the first time I was able to attend the Shirley Jackson Awards, although I've followed them closely since their inception four years ago.

2010 Shirley Jackson Awards
The opening speech was given by Victor Lavalle, author of _Big Machine_, last year's SJA for best novel [available to visually impaired readers at]. Lavalle (who also possesses a wonderful voice) gave an absolutely lovely speech about the development of an artist's mastery and style by telling about Victor Van Gogh's development as an artist, pointing out that an artist becomes a master when his or her voice and style are as fine as her or his technical skills, and then he read a couple of pages from Shirley Jackson's _Life Amongst the Savages_ (not sure I got the title precisely correct) in which she describes a house as if it has an emotional and psychological life of its own.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Joyce Carol Oates [lots of her books are available to visually impaired readers at]

Novel: Mr. Shivers, Robert Jackson Bennett (Orbit) [available to visually impaired readers on

Novella: “Mysterium Tremendum”, Laird Barron (Occultation, Night Shade) [available in DRM-free ebook formats from Baen Books
which also provides free memberships to visually impaired individuals and veterans with disabilities)

“Novelette: Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains,” Neil Gaiman (Stories: All New Tales, William Morrow) [available from]

Short Story: “The Things,” Peter Watts (Clarkesworld, Issue 40) [available online from Clarke's World Magazine as eithre text
or as an audio podcast ]

Single Author Collection: Occultation, Laird Barron (Night Shade)

Edited Anthology: Stories: All New Tales, edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio (William Morrow)

I was very glad to see Laird Barron win some awards as I believe he is one of the best horror writers currently writing psychological horror, and I had an additional thrill by having the chance to show Neil Gaiman (who showed up rather unexpectedly) my prosthetic eyes based on the eyes of his Sandman character, Delirium. I asked Neil for a one-word quote to describe them, and he said, "Perfect." (Alexx and I were also amused that Neil kept referring to them as his eyes.)
kestrell: (Default)
Thanks to David who originally said, "You don't own it until you alter it," and to Alexx for making the tat sticker, and to Carla for the comics.

The tat is actually a very small sticker with the finder glyph from the graphic novel Finder (yes, this is another prosthetic mod based on a graphic novel featuring a character with shapeshifter abilities).
You can see a picture on Alexx's LJ
kestrell: (Default)
Yesterday I did my marathon of five doctor appointments in a single day, , and the highlight was that I finally received my purple ear. Actually, just the rubbery coil that goes into my ear is purple; the small plastic box that contains the battery and the mic (the whole thing is a little bit narower and shorter than the first two joints of my pinky finger( is silver, and the plastic tube which connects the two pieces is clear.

By the time I showed up, the audiologist had already programmed the hearing aid using the results from my hearing test, so it is programmed to make up for the particular pitches affected by my hearing loss. The audiologist also programmed the chip in the hearing aid to slowly increase in gain over a period of weeks, so that I'm not overwhelmed by an onslaught of noise which I've become unaccustomed to. When Alexx and I emerged from the hospital, it was rush hour, and I really appreciated the fact that I wasn't hearing it at full capacity yet, as even the increased sound level which I am currently experiencing is kind of...distracting.

Hearing aids are not quite the same as biological hearing--everything, including my own voice, sounds as if I am hearing it over a mic, which I am. I find myself turning my head from side to side while listening to music in order to study the differences. Hearing aid sound reminds me of the sound quality you get from a portable radio. Also, my hair brushing against the mic--which is at the very topmost arc of my outer ear--makes a small rustling sound, so I may be pulling my hair back more often.

All in all, though, it's pretty awesome, as I can now hear things on my left side, 360 degrees.

I'll get Alexx to take a picture as soon as I mod it with the tiny hearing aid tatoo I want to get for it.
kestrell: (Default)
""Kes: Is it me, or is this article kind of light on basic understanding concerning voluntary versus involuntary actions (which both involve the mind) and the fact that propriaception (your sense of what your body is doing) does not require you to be looking at that part of your body? And let's not even get into the whole stereotype about prosthetics and transplants being able to become possessed...

Hand-hacking lets you pluck strings like a musical pro

23 June 2011 by
Jacob Aron

WANT to learn a musical instrument, but can't find the time to practise? A device now under development can take control of your hand and teach you how
to play a tune. No spirits of dead musicians are involved.

being developed jointly by the University of Tokyo, Japan, and Sony Computer Science Laboratories, also in Tokyo, electrically stimulates the muscles in the forearm that move your fingers. A belt worn around that part of the subject's arm contains 28 electrode pads, which flex the joints between the three bones of each finger and the two bones of the thumb, and provide two wrist movements. Users were able to sense the movement of their hands that this produced, even with their eyes closed. "The user's fingers are controlled without the user's mind," explains
Emi Tamaki of the University of Tokyo, who led the research.

Devices that stimulate people's fingers have been made before, but they used electrodes embedded in the skin, which are invasive, or glove-like devices
that make it hard to manipulate an object. Tamaki claims that her device is far more comfortable. "The electric stimulations are similar to low-frequency
massage stimulations that are commonly used," she says.

Having successfully hijacked a hand, the researchers tried to teach it how to play the
a traditional Japanese stringed instrument. Koto players wear different picks on three fingers, but pluck the strings with all five fingertips, so each
finger produces a distinctive sound. A koto score tells players which fingers should be moved and when, and from this Tamaki and her team were able to
generate instructions telling their device how and when to stimulate the wearer's muscles.

PossessedHand does not generate enough force to pluck the koto strings, but it could help novice players by teaching them the correct finger movements.
Tamaki and her team found that two beginner players made a total of four timing errors when using PossessedHand, compared with 13 when playing unassisted.
After prompting from the device, the players also made one less mistake about which finger to use.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the players found it unsettling to have the device move their hand by itself. "I felt like my body was hacked," said one. Tamaki is confident that people will get used to the idea once they see how useful it can be: "We believe convenient technology will overcome a feeling of fear."

As well as helping would-be musicians, PossessedHand could be used to rehabilitate people who have suffered a stroke or other injury that impairs muscle control. Therapists already use electrical muscle stimulation to help these people, but existing non-invasive devices can only achieve crude movements such as contracting the entire arm.

Henrik Gollee, who researches rehabilitation devices at the University of Glasgow, UK, says PossessedHand could help patients train a wider range of movements. "I was surprised by the level of fine movement they can actually achieve," he says.

Simon Holland, director of the Music Computing Lab at the Open University in Milton Keynes, UK, points out that there is a big difference between learning to play one song and being a competent musician. "You might learn a fingering and be able to reproduce that performance, without necessarily being able to perform simple variants," he says.

from Issue 2818 of New Scientist magazine
kestrell: (Default)
I just got back from the audiologist. I've been experiencing significant hearing loss in my left ear, mostly in missing conversations when there is background noise and, when using headphones, hearing the sound in the left earphone as high and tinny. The really big issue though is that you need two good ears for echolocation, so I've been having lots of trouble tracking people in my proximity and bumping into housemates a lot more often.

The audiologist was a middle-aged woman with an alto voice, and we went through a number of hearing tests. The right ear is normal, and the middle ear of the left ear is fine. Then there was this test where I sat in a sound booth with headphones on and the audiologist spoke words through the headphones and I was supposed to repeat the words, "cupcake," "sailboat," "playground."

Right ear, fine. Left ear--

suddenly Turret
is talking to me: "cupcake!."

So how does an alto voice turn into Turret? It seems I not only have a hearing loss (the left ear is operating at 78 percent), but there is a sound distortion occuring. A sound distortion that makes things in my left ear sound like Turret ("Hey! It's me!")

I now have an appt. with a doctor to find the medical cause of the hearing loss, because a hearing loss on only one side could be something related to my arthritis or fibromyalgia or possibly a tumor. The hearing loss is permanent, and I will be getting some sort of device, depending on the situation, perhaps a hearing aid or cochlear implant.

Now I'm going to go find out if I can tweak my text-to-speech program to sound like Turret.
kestrell: (Default)
On Saturday I dragged Alexx to the Antiquarian Book Fair. While all of the books were way out of our budget I am fascinated by all the unusual books, eccentric subjects, and luxurious bindings to be found at the book fair.

Here are some of the strange and wonderful things which we discovered at the fair.

1. A box of antique glass Eyes, arranged in a wooden tray like a ring tray. Despite the fact that glass eyes are often portrayed as being incredibly fake-looking, these seemed to be of a similar quality to my own 21st century prosthetic eyes. Traditionally there were families or even entire towns which made these eyes, and thus their production was indeed viewed as something of an art. This set of eyes would, I think, still make quite a wonderful ingredient for a contemporary artist. The price for the entire collection was $6500, available from B & L Rootenberg, Rare books & Manuscripts

2. Printed Cookbooks in Europe, 14701700 by Henry Notaker (Oak Knoll Press, 2010) Hardcover, 395 pp. $125

3. The most gorgeous book I saw and the only one which I really lusted after--it had an unfortunate $400 price tag--was _Little Red_ by Dorothy Simpson Krause. Krause is truly an artist, and everything from the text to the illustrations was just gorgeous. The story itself was a very Angela Carterestque sort of fairy tale, but also very sensual. (Note that this book should not be confused with the similarly titled _Little Red and the Wolf_ by Alison Paige, although the latter looks like a tantalizing paranormal romance). Krause also wrote _Book + Art: Handcrafting Artists' Books_ (North Light Books, 2009), which I may have to get.

4. _The Dark Page_, a book which features the original books upon which film noir was based.

5. And because I know some of my fellow readers are intrigued by the eccentric and the bizarre, I recommend Garrett Scott, Bookseller
"uncommon 19th and early 20th century books, pamphlets and ephemera"
The uncommon reader may discover a pamphlet titled "How to Goblinproof Your Chicken Coop" or a Canadian pamphlet on the subject of the "Vampire Fiends" who enforce compulsory vaccinations. One book seemed to be the memoirs of a squirrel, described as "the pinnacle of squirrel fiction." Mr. Scott was also offering various catalogues, including one specifically on the subject of UFO and other paranormal science. While most of the books are probably too pricey for most of us, just browsing the catalogues is fascinating, while Mr. Scott's book descriptions are quite amusing and witty.
kestrell: (Default)
Books I mentioned during the prosthetics panel:
The Body Has a Mind of Its Own (2007) by Sandra Blakeslee and Matthew Blakeslee
Natural-Born Cyborgs (2003) by Andy Clark
and I didn't get a chance to mention
How We Became Posthuman by N. Katherine Hayles (1999)
which specifically looks at images of the posthuman in SF or,
The Open Prosthetics Project Wiki
"Prosthetics shouldn't cost an arm and a leg."

Science fiction works featuring disability and prosthetics
Waldo, INc. by Robert Heinlein
plus here's a random DIY for making your own Waldos

Rainbowz End by Vernor Vinge (2007)
Blindsight by Peter Watts (2007)
and I didn't even get to mention my favorite instance of wearable computing
"Is There in Truth No Beauty?" Star Trek original series
which I discuss in my thesis
or check out my memoir
Part 1
part 2
which was published inThe Inner History of Devices edited by Sherry Turkle

Here are links for those interested in
the ongoing
of Kestrell's
psst! passit on until everybody knows.
kestrell: (Default)
My eye surgery has been scheduled for Wed. Jan. 27. I'll be having the silicone implant and transplanted sclera removed, and once healed, will be getting a larger, orbital prosthetic for my right eye.

Also note that I'm listed as Alicia Verlager in the Arisia program.

Sat. Noon-1 Accessible tour of the Art Show
We meet at the art show for descriptions andopportunities to touch some of the art.

Saturday, 3PM
[168] Women Writers in Horror
Arisia schedule below cut )
kestrell: (Default)
This tattoo artist airbrushes tattoos onto prosthetic limbs
--that is so cool!


kestrell: (Default)

October 2017

12 34567
89101112 1314
151617 18192021


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Oct. 19th, 2017 10:56 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios