Personal Infrastructure

“Case was twenty-four. At twenty-two, he’d been a cowboy, a rustler, one of the best in the Sprawl…jacked into a custom cyberspace deck that projected his disembodied consciousness into the consensual hallucination that was the matrix.”
– William Gibson

Smaller Cheaper Faster

Personal Infrastructure

Seeing the MIT Media Lab $100 PC made me remember what the low-cost Asian manufacturers do every year at the Consumer Electronics Show. Last January, I saw the Latte – 3 GHz processor in a 4 pound, one square foot package. I’m typing this on a laptop that weighs the same and has one-quarter the processing power.

“the world’s smallest P4 system…the fastest and smallest mini-PC in the world.”

Cheaper Laptops

Personal Infrastructure

MIT is not a large-scale manufacturer, so the practicality of this plan remains to be seen, but it seems clear that riding Moore’s Law to a much lower price point would do more to spread general purpose computing power to more people around the world.

“The MIT Media Laboratory expects to launch a prototype of its US$100 laptop in November, according to Nicholas Negroponte, the lab’s chairman and co-founder. The facility has been working with industry partners to develop a notebook computer for use by children in primary and secondary education around the world, particularly in developing countries. The laptops should start appearing in volume in late 2006. “In emerging nations, the issue isn’t connectivity,” Negroponte said at the Emerging Technologies Conference on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Cambridge campus Wednesday. “That’s not solved, but lots of people are working on it in Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G, etc. For education, the roadblock is laptops.””

RFID for Medical Records

Personal Infrastructure

Don’t want to carry a laptop all the time. Don’t even want to carry a PDA (even though it’s your cell phone?) I’m more interested in how I can access the world’s information, but this is how it cuts the other way.

“RFID chips would relieve doctors of having to spend hours searching for the identities of unknown patients and the confusion over unknown patients’ treatment preferences, he said. This would make RFID chips ideal for people who engage in extreme sports and do not carry their wallets, or for people with medical conditions that make them unable to communicate – although Halamka said the latter situation poses ethical dilemmas involving the issue of patient consent.”

(I found this in FuturEdition from the Arlington Institute (

Power to the People

Personal Infrastructure

The promise of personal access to the vast resources of the Internet seems tantalizing when wielding today’s powerful PCs. But for portability, battery life is still limiting. This research may serve to power the increasingly wired yet mobile individual.

“Rome et al have devised a machine that recovers energy that is otherwise wasted. They

have modified a backpack by introducing a vertically moveable weight that

rises about 5 centimeters with each step and then turns a gear as it falls.

This device can be used to recover some of the energy used in carrying

supplies–a load of 38 kilograms produces up to 7 watts of electricity,

compared with about 20 milliwatts from shoe-based devices.”

(subscription required)

Wherever I Go, There I Am

Personal Infrastructure

In The World Right Now, I try to track technology that allows us to sense what’s going on at a distance from us. This is sort of the inverse of that.

“Migo software is available for iPod® mobile digital devices or pre-loaded on USB flash drives in 64MB, 256MB, 512MB, and 1GB configurations.

Migo keeps your personal information and settings at your fingertips. Send and receive Outlook email from almost anywhere. Migo captures your desktop wallpaper and Internet favorites as well, so you will always have your personal look-and-feel wherever you go. Access your email, contacts, files, MP3 files, presentations and more — all on Migo.”

Neural Prosthetics Update

Personal Infrastructure

A selection of prosthetics sites. These prosthetics are controlled entirely by connection to the residual limb muscles of individuals who have undergone amputation. The prosthetic limbs use a combination of hydraulics, processors, and sensors to transmit information back up through the limb muscles to enable walking, running and other activities. (I love the applet on the Hanger site showing a man dancing, quite stylishly thank you, with a prosthetic leg. These individuals in turn are the most likely to explore the frontier of neural prosthetics when that technology is ready to, if you will, take the next step.

Liberating Technologies:

Hanger Orthopedic Group

C-Leg microprocessor-controlled knee

For the human element, here’s the personal site of Cameron Clapp, a triple-amputee after being hit by a train. I challenge you not to be inspired.