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Category Archives: Sci-Fi Tech

This category consists of entries surrounding science fiction based technologies with my take on the subjects that are addressed.

Bionics and Robotics

Technology is an incredible thing and has existed alongside humanity ever since we learned the effective use of rocks and sticks to achieve a particular end.  We’ve been using technology even before modern man has existed, tracing its use back millions of years to our earliest ancestors.  And humanity is, if not the masters of technology, than an animal that is just most adept at creating and using it.  Recently, we’ve reached the point where we are able to create self-operating machines as well as merge organic components with mechanical elements.  This is what this entry is all about.

What inspired me to write this post was a Star Wars special that I saw years ago.  At first, it was initially only going to consist of bionics and androids, but after some consideration, I realized that I couldn’t talk about either one of these without talking about robots and cyborgs as well.  This is due to the fact that all four of these categories are interconnected and overlap with each other.  So here we go.

Bionics: A bionic is any organic being that has been either enhanced by or at least has parts replaced with a synthetic material.  What this essentially entails is that any person who has a body part replaced with something created by science to function similar to the original, replaced, part is a bionic.  This artificial replacement can range from the insertion of an artificial pace-maker to the use of an artificial limb.  In the realm of science fiction, this is taken to the extreme with total body reconstruction.  Two of the most famous examples of bionics are Darth Vader and the Six Million Dollar Man.  Both Vader and Steve Austin are both human beings that required major surgery to replace missing and damaged tissue and organs with mechanical replacements.  And despite their major surgeries and tissue replacements, they still constitute human beings.  This is due to the fact that, despite the amount of synthetic replacements that they received, their core being is still that of a human being.  And if the core being of a creature remains that of an organic creature, they are considered a bionic.

Robots: A robot is an artificial being that requires external information and input for it to function and operate properly.  It is totally reliant upon outside information for it to operate.  It is used by humanity to enter and explore an environment that is unsafe for them to enter or which the person is unable to reach on their own.  Examples of this include defusing a bomb or exploring the surface of Mars.  They are also used as a labor saving device when the situation calls for it.  One such example is on an assembly line, allowing the process to become more effective and allow the company to make more of a given product in a given amount of time.

Androids: An android is an artificial being that is able to operate on its own without instructions or input from an outside source.  It receives its instructions and commands from itself based upon its own desires and wishes, so to speak, though they can receive instruction from others if they so wish.  Everything that it needs to operate is located within its microchips and motherboard.  In this way, it is an autonomous being, though it possessing self-awareness is something that is yet to be determined.  Essentially, it is an advanced version of a robot.  The size and shape of the android is irrelevant, as long as it is self-reliant.  Examples of androids are R2-D2 and C-3PO from Star Wars and Data from Star Trek.  All three examples possess sufficient software to operate on their own.  It’s also important to note that all three possess artificial intelligence.  This allows them to better interact with their surroundings because it allows them to reason and learn.  Artificial intelligence, however, is not absolutely necessary for an android to be able to function and operate properly.  It’s just an attribute that we generally associate with them because it allows us to better relate to them as an audience.

Cyborg: The word cyborg stands for cybernetic organism and it is a synthetic being that possesses at least some organic material.  Essentially, it is nothing more than an android with flesh.  The amount of flesh it possesses, and where it is located, is irrelevant, as long as the underlying structure is mechanical.  In the real world, we are yet to develop what I have just described.  In the realm of science fiction, however, is another story.  Cyborgs have already appeared in several science fiction stories.  Two such examples are the Terminator and RoboCop.  With the Terminator, it is nothing more than an exoskeleton android that is surrounded by living human tissue.  This living human tissue is designed to disguise the true identity and nature of the Terminator.  And as long as the Terminator possesses this tissue, it’s still classified as a cyborg.  However, as soon as it loses its tissue, it becomes classified as an android.  RoboCop on the other hand can be a little tricky.  RoboCop was created from the corpse of Alex Murphy, and since OCP started off with the body of Murphy, it could be argued that RoboCop could be classified as a bionic.  But for a person to be classified as a bionic, he or she needs to be alive when the implants are put into place.  The use of Murphy’s body after he died was just a formality.  This is due to the fact that for the RoboCop project to work, OCP needed the training and experience Murphy acquired over the years of being a cop.  In all tense and purposes, RoboCop is nothing more than a machine that just so happens to possess a human brain and some other organs to allow the brain to function.  The only reason why people would call RoboCop a bionic is because OCP put a human brain into one of its machines.  But just because a human brain could be found within the metal skull of RoboCop doesn’t qualify him as a bionic, though a moral debate can arise surrounding his humanity, which was addressed in RoboCop one and two.  For a person to be considered a bionic, synthetics need to be added to the human body, not the other way around.

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Posted by on October 29, 2011 in Sci-Fi Tech

 

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Powered Armor v. Mechs

Powered Armor and Mechs are both pieces of technology that are found in science fiction and anime stories.  Both of these pieces of technology have real world applications, but how I see it, it is the former that has the greatest real world applications.  From the research that I have done, cursory though it might me, the distinction between the two isn’t clear.  For those who know of Powered Armor and Mechs, they are aware of the differences between the two, but I’m not aware of anyone who clearly defined either one.  If someone has already defined the differences between Powered Armor and Mechs, I’m unaware of it and it won’t stop me from giving my view on the situation.  So we go.

Powered Armor: Powered Armor is a personalized suit of armor that is designed to completely protect the user while he or she is in a high conflict situation.  Similar to other forms ofpersonalized armor, it is designed to prevent the user from becoming injured or killed while under attack.  But unlike traditional forms of armor, Powered Armor completely encases the operator in armor with little to no gaps in protection and is reliant upon pistons, servos, and electronics in order to move and operate while at the same time lacking the cumbersomeness of traditional types of personalized armor would put on the user and allows for the freedom for motion that is similar to that of an ordinary human being that not found in other types of armor.  Due to the shape of the operator, Powered Armor is anthropomorphic in appearance with the operator located within the chest and leg cavity of the armor.  In addition to this, Powered Armor possesses a set of arms, allowing the operator to manipulate his or her surrounding environment as well as to operate weaponry that is specially designed for Powered Armor.

In addition to this, Powered Armor possesses sensory equipment that allows the operator to interact with his or her surrounding environment as it changes.  This sensory equipment consists primarily of microphones and video receivers, which is located primarily in the head of the suit, though there are secondary sensors located elsewhere in the suit to act as backup sensors during situations where the primary sensors have become damaged, destroyed, or otherwise disabled.  The video images that are received by the cameras are displayed on either the interior surface of the suit in front of the operator or onto micro-screens located just over each eye of the operator.  In addition to this, the Powered Armor is equipped with radio communication capability so that the operator can communicate with other units or with command easily.

There are two basic layouts for Powered Armor.  The first layout has the operator’s arms located within the chest cavity of the unit with the controls for the mechanical arms easily accessible to the operator.  The second layout has the operator’s arms located within the arms of the unit themselves, allowing the arms to move in sync with the arm movements of the operator.  But regardless of the layout, the legs of the operator are located within the legs of the suit.

The initial use for Powered Armor will be by the military to aid and protect the infantry.  But as time goes by, new and different applications for Powered Armor will be implemented.  Lighter and quicker units will be developed to be used by shock troops and aquatic versions will be developed for amphibious assaults and aquatic warfare.  Eventually, this technology will have civilian applications, found primarily with law enforcement agencies.  The first such uses will be with SWAT followed by crowd control and border patrols.

Mechs: Mechs are the larger cousins of Powered Armor.  What makes Mechs different from Powered Armor is sheer size.  Due to the increased size of the Mech, the operator is located within a centralized cockpit, similar in nature to a jet.  And because of its size and complexity, the operator is prevented from controlling the Mech through direct bodily motion.  Thus, the operator relies upon the Mechs instrumentation to control it.  In addition to all of the necessary instrumentation, the operator also has a viewing screen or window, allowing the operator to view his or her surrounding environment.

With the basic layout of the Mech, it consists of the aforementioned cockpit accompanied by an anthropomorphic means of transportation; that is, legs.  Because it relies upon legs to move from one location to another, its center of gravity is constantly shifting.  This shouldn’t be much of a problem for a Mech that consists of three or more legs, but is a problem when dealing with a bipedal Mech.  With a bipedal Mech, it is forced to transfer its entire weight from one leg to another while walking, making it prone to falling over.  To counteract this problem, sensors and other necessary equipment have been installed to help counteract the Mech’s desire to fall over.  Once this hurdle is overcome, it should be onward and upward.

As stated before, the basic layout of the Mech consists of a cockpit and legs.  From there, any necessary accessories will be added to the Mech, depending upon the intended mission for it.  If it’s going to be a scout, than it will receive all the necessary sensory equipment for it to gather as much information as it can about the environment or the enemy.  However, it will not receive any type of weaponry.  But if it’s going to be used in an offensive capability, which people generally think of when Mech comes to mind, than the Mech will receive whatever weaponry and related equipment it will need to perform its task.

Because of the basic design of Mechs, it will not expand beyond that of a cockpit and legs.  It will not be given a torso and arms because they would be useless additions accompanied by the fact that they will make the Mech needlessly complex.  With the use of Mechs, their primary use will be in uneven terrain, such as mountains and jungles.  This is due to the fact that tanks already satisfy the same basic role in open terrain situations.  However, there is the potential for them to be used in urban military situations.  They will also remain a purely military piece of equipment because there is little civilian use for them accompanied by the fact that Mechs have a high damage potential to them.

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2011 in Sci-Fi Tech

 

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