Rise of the Cybermen: The Terminator-style bionic ear that could give people ‘superman’ hearing

The machines in Terminator were cybernetics. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the T-800 model number 101 who tells John Connor in the film: 'I'm a cybernetic organism. Living tissue over a metal endoskeleton'

The machines in Terminator were made using cybernetics. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the T-800 model number 101 who tells John Connor in the film: ‘I’m a cybernetic organism. Living tissue over a metal endoskeleton’

  • The 3D printed ear can ‘hear‘ radio frequencies beyond the range of normal human ears
  • It could soon be used in prosthetics, or developed as a hearing aid

A breakthrough bionic ear that can ‘hear’ radio frequencies beyond the range of normal human ears has been created by scientists at Princeton University.

The researchers used a radical 3D printing technique to create the ear with the electronics of a hearing aid inside it.

They say it is a major step towards creating ‘cybermen’ such as those seen in the Terminator films, which combine living cells and electronic circuits.

The finished ear consists of a coiled antenna inside a cartilage structure. Two wires lead from the base of the ear and wind around a helical The finished ear consists of a coiled antenna inside a cartilage structure. Two wires lead from the base of the ear and wind around a helical ‘cochlea’ – the part of the ear that senses sound – which can connect to electrodes

Michael McAlpine, lead researcher and assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton Univeristy said ‘In general, there are mechanical and thermal challenges with interfacing electronic materials with biological materials.

‘Previously, researchers have suggested some strategies to tailor the electronics so that this merger is less awkward

That typically uses a 2D sheet of electronics and a surface tissue.

‘However, our work suggests a new approach – to build and grow the biology up with the electronics synergistically and in a 3D interwoven format.’

Although McAlpine warns that further work and extensive testing would need to be done before the technology could be used on a patient, he said the ear in principle could be used to restore or enhance human hearing.

He added that electrical signals produced by the ear could be connected to a patient’s nerve endings, similar to a hearing aid.

The current system receives radio waves, but he said the research team plans to incorporate other materials, such as pressure-sensitive electronic sensors, to enable the ear to register acoustic sounds.

McAlpine’s team has made several advances in recent years involving the use of small-scale medical sensors and antenna.

Last year, a research effort led by McAlpine and Naveen Verma, an assistant professor of electrical engineering, and Fio Omenetto of Tufts University, developed a ‘tattoo’ made up of a biological sensor and antenna that can be fixed onto the surface of a tooth.

The bionic ear project, however, is the team’s first attempt at creating a fully functional organ – one that not only replicates a human ability, but extends it using embedded electronics.

In an article published in the Nano Letters journal, researchers said ‘The design and implementation of bionic organs and devices that enhance human capabilities, known as cybernetics, has been an area of increasing scientific interest.

‘This field has the potential to generate customized replacement parts for the human body, or even create organs containing capabilities beyond what human biology ordinarily provides.

Read more: 

Advertisements

One thought on “Rise of the Cybermen: The Terminator-style bionic ear that could give people ‘superman’ hearing

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s