Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Life Imitates Science Fiction, Part II

In a previous post ("Life Imitates Science Fiction"), I mentioned hearing about a new gadget that was similar to a futuristic device imagined by the science fiction writer Michael Swanwick. Today I found out about something like another one of the machines mentioned in a Swanwick book.

Swanwick's novel Stations of the Tide mentioned machines called "surrogates" -- robots, essentially, that a person could animate and control remotely. An image of the person's face would appear on the video screen the surrogate apparently had in place of a head; the person could speak, see, hear through the surrogate, and move it around as well. The link above goes to an excerpt from the beginning of the novel, where surrogates are first mentioned. In keeping with his typical M.O., Swanwick doesn't waste much exposition describing the technology, he just mentions it and lets you fill in the details on your own from the context.

See the video below, for something similar to Swanwick's surrogate: the "Chungbot", named after U.S. Army Major Kevin Chung, a physician specializing in the treatment of burns. As he explains in the video clip below (which includes some graphic footage of recovering burn victims), the robot enabled him to check in on -- and assist in the treatment of -- patients stateside while he was deployed in Iraq.

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