Kevin Warwick

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Kevin Warwick : biography

9 February 1954 –

The second stage involved a more complex neural interface which was designed and built especially for the experiment by Dr. Mark Gasson and his team at the University of Reading. This device consisted of an internal electrode array, connected to an external "gauntlet" that housed supporting electronics. It was implanted on 14 March 2002, and interfaced directly into Warwick’s nervous system. The electrode array inserted contained 100 electrodes, of which 25 could be accessed at any one time, whereas the median nerve which it monitored carries many times that number of signals. The experiment proved successful, and the signal produced was detailed enough that a robot arm developed by Warwick’s colleague, Dr Peter Kyberd, was able to mimic the actions of Warwick’s own arm.

By means of the implant, Warwick’s nervous system was connected onto the internet in Columbia University, New York. From there he was able to control the robot arm in the University of Reading and to obtain feedback from sensors in the finger tips. He also successfully connected ultrasonic sensors on a baseball cap and experienced a form of extra sensory input.Warwick, K, Hutt, B, Gasson, M and Goodhew, I:“An attempt to extend human sensory capabilities by means of implant technology”, Proceedings IEEE International Conference on Systems, Man and Cybernetics, Hawaii, pp.1663–1668, October 2005

A highly publicised extension to the experiment, in which a simpler array was implanted into the arm of Warwick’s wife—with the ultimate aim of one day creating a form of telepathy or empathy using the Internet to communicate the signal from afar—was also successful in-so-far as it resulted in the first direct and purely electronic communication between the nervous systems of two humans.Warwick, K, Gasson, M, Hutt, B, Goodhew, I, Kyberd, P, Schulzrinne, H and Wu, X: “Thought Communication and Control: A First Step using Radiotelegraphy”, IEE Proceedings on Communications, 151(3), pp.185–189, 2004 Finally, the effect of the implant on Warwick’s hand function was measured using the University of Southampton Hand Assessment Procedure (SHAP).Kyberd, P, Murgia, A, Gasson, M, Tjerks, T, Metcalf, C, Chappell, P, Warwick, K, Lawson, S and Barnhill, T: "Case studies to demonstrate the range of applications of the Southampton Hand Assessment Procedure", British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 72(5), pp.212–218, 2009 It was feared that directly interfacing with the nervous system might cause some form of damage or interference, but no measurable effect nor rejection was found. Indeed, nerve tissue was seen to grow around the electrode array, enclosing the sensorGasson, M.N., Hutt, B.D., Goodhew, I., Kyberd, P., and Warwick, K: "Invasive Neural Prosthesis for Neural Signal Detection and Nerve Stimulation", International Journal of Adaptive Control and Signal Processing, Vol.19:5, pp.365–75, 2005.

As well as the Project Cyborg work, Warwick has been involved in several of the major robotics developments within the Cybernetics Department at Reading. These include the "seven dwarves", a version of which was sold in kit form as "Cybot" on the cover of Real Robots magazine.

Implications of Project Cyborg

Warwick and his colleagues claim that the Project Cyborg research could lead to new medical tools for treating patients with damage to the nervous system, as well as opening the way for the more ambitious enhancements Warwick advocates. Some transhumanists even speculate that similar technologies could be used for technology-facilitated telepathy." Warwick himself asserts that his controversial work is important because it directly tests the boundaries of what is known about the human ability to integrate with computerised systems.

A controversy arose in August 2002, shortly after the Soham murders, when Warwick reportedly offered to implant a tracking device into an 11-year-old girl as an anti-abduction measure. The plan produced a mixed reaction, with support from many worried parents but ethical concerns from a number of children’s societies. As a result, the idea did not go ahead.