The Next 25 Years in Tech

Our Computers, Ourselves

Ambient computing will extend from house walls to body cells. Verichip makes a pea-size radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip that can be injected under diabetes patients' skin to monitor glucose without a blood sample.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland are exploring how to spray computerized sensors into patients' chests during heart surgery, so the sensors can relay information to the hospital computer. The process could be commercially viable within ten years.

Body computers will progress from monitoring health to delivering medical care and ultimately to augmenting reality by piping the Internet directly into the brain--if people can overcome their squeamishness about brain implants. "There's a very short leap between implanting a [cochlear] device and one that lets you receive data directly from the Net," Tucker says.

Researchers are moving ahead boldly. For three months in 2002, Kevin Warwick, a cybernetics professor at the University of Reading in England, lived with electrodes implanted in his arm. In one test, he wired them to an Internet-connected PC and then temporarily attached electrodes to his wife's arm as well. Warwick described this experiment in a 2006 interview with ITWales.com: "[W]hen she moved her hand three times, I felt in my brain three pulses, and my brain recognized that my wife was communicating with me. It was the world's first purely electronic communication from brain to brain, and therefore the basis for thought communication."

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