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Researchers Create Computer That Fits On a Pen Tip

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the because-they-can dept.

Hardware 110

CWmike writes "Researchers at the University of Michigan announced Wednesday that they have created the first prototype for a millimeter-scale computing system that can hold up to a week's worth of data when implanted in something as small as a human eye. The computer, called the Phoenix chip, is just over one cubic millimeter in size and was designed to monitor eye pressure in glaucoma patients. 'This is the first true millimeter-scale complete computing system,' said Dennis Sylvester, a professor at the school and one of the researchers on the project. Within the computer is an ultra low-power microprocessor, a pressure sensor, memory, a thin-film battery, a solar cell and a wireless radio with an antenna that can transmit data to an external reader device held near the eye."

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110 comments

That sound convenient (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35296338)

I must say.

Re:That sound convenient (2)

Aldenissin (976329) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296400)

It is, soon I can have the cheapest gas (including cost to drive there) known "for" me instead of having to look it up on gasbuddy.com myself. I will even be able to have it feed that info. directly to my brain. Just go get my implant in my forehead or wrist, and all important "decisions" will already be handled for me! I can't wait.... /end sarcasm

Re:That sound convenient (2)

mug funky (910186) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297340)

lol, you just betrayed your sig

Re:That sound convenient (1)

Aldenissin (976329) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298796)

Reply back, does not equal reply to. It helps, and has done its intended purpose. Secret: sometimes I do reply back to, but usually only to just say how much anonymous coward means a free license to be an idiot to many idiots. Even if it is a well reasoned reply, I have if I remember to, avoided replying back. Good troll protection it is. Often, if you refuse to play the game, you already won.

Re:That sound convenient (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35296766)

If Apple had done this everyone would be complaining that it didn't have a user replaceable battery.

Re:That sound convenient (2)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296866)

Of course, Apple would have made the receiver without a replaceable battery, required you to install iTunes to download the data, only let you look at Apple authorized views, and when you would have periods of blindness, they would tell you that you were looking wrong.

Re:That sound convenient (1)

pakar (813627) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298872)

I would complain more that i would have to send in my eyes to get the battery replaced.. and wait for a few weeks before i get them back.

Re:That sound convenient (1)

SudoGhost (1779150) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296822)

Judging by the name of the article, nobody has invented it yet, it's more of a suggestion. Researcher, Create Computer That Fits On a Pen Tip. That letter S is kind of important.

Re:That sound convenient (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35297180)

It made me laughs just to think about it.

Holy shit... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35296382)

... that is one of the most jaw-dropping things I've heard in quite a while.

Huh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35296392)

A week's worth of what data? I can store a university's worth of data if I'm not too concerned about the data I'm collecting being sampled often.

Re:Huh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35296568)

A weeks worth of eye pressure data sampled every 15 minutes. If you had taken the time to at least skim TFA instead of writing a stupid, pointless post you might have learned something.

Re:Huh (2)

jc42 (318812) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296688)

A weeks worth of eye pressure data sampled every 15 minutes. If you had taken the time to at least skim TFA instead of writing a stupid, pointless post you might have learned something.

Well, I read it, and found that, but I didn't see any clue that would tell me how to convert that to bits or bytes. A "week" of data is about as useful as the common "Library of Congress" as a measure of information.

So please explain further why we're being so stupid when we fail to understand such units of measurement.

Re:Huh (5, Informative)

FSWKU (551325) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296808)

Well, if it's measuring intra-ocular pressure, it's likely not recording much data. Figure a date and time stamp and lets say 5 digits for the IOP measurement itself (15.517, for example). Store that in a CSV file and you're going to end up with something around 22 bytes. If you take a measurement every 15 minutes, you're looking at 96 per day, or 672 per week. That leaves you 14,784 bytes of data, or roughly 14.4 kilobytes.

My phone can store 32 gigabytes in the space roughly equivalent to a fingernail. That means the storage density on something like this is really quite low in comparison to what we have today (yes, the whole thing is in that tiny package, but I still doubt the storage area is smaller than 0.04% the area of an SD-micro card). No, the really interesting bit is the fact that they can make something that small and still keep it from causing a really nasty infection.

Re:Huh (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 3 years ago | (#35299174)

I'm not sure it would need a date/time stamp for each reading since they're periodic. It might want to keep a single last-read date (or the last-cleared date) so you can calculate the date/time of the readings. Also, I doubt it keeps a floating point representation of the number. A/D converters usually deal in a fixed number of bits, so a 10 bit A/D would be able to store 0-1023, which is a little better than 0.1% resolution. For IOPs in the range of 0-50mmHg (0=eyeball deflated, 50=bugging), that's 0.05mmHg - that's likely sufficient resolution since the normal range is 10-20mmHg and the day/night variance is on the order of 3-6 mmHg.

Given those parameters, the date/time stamp could be as small as 20 bits if you only store DOY hhmm in raw form (DOY=day of year; no need for the year if you know you can only store a week's worth of data). In fact, you could likely get away with storing the day of week + hhmm. The number of samples returned would tell you whether you went a day over or had it read out 1 day after being cleared. Each sample would be 10 bits, so you're talking about 20 + 672 * 10 bits/week - that's 6740 bits/week or about 843 bytes/week. Even if you chose to 'waste' bits and make all of the values multiples of 8 bits you're still only talking 10776 bits/week = 1347 bytes/week.

At that data rate I'm surprised they chose 'normal' radio readout - using an RFID-like system where the radio gets its power from the interrogating field would help with power consumption.

I wonder if a tiny bit of e-paper could be modulated with less power than a 60GHz radio? Reflective readout, that's the ticket!

The big question is... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35296408)

...does it run Linux?

not linux -arduino (1)

formfeed (703859) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296754)

...does it run Linux?

It won't run linux but someone will come up with a way to turn it into an arduino clone.

- World's smallest microprocessor to blink an led
(duck)

Let me know (5, Interesting)

ceriphim (1530579) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296410)

...when I can skip Lasik and go straight to cybereyes. I'm sick of paying for contact lenses and glasses just to give me 20/20 vision. I want IR, UV, and better than human-standard sight with recording capabilities. Oh yeah, and augmented reality without the damn external glasses.

Re:Let me know (1)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296464)

I've heard from a lot of Lasik/Lasek/Whateverik patients that its not uncommon to get a fair bit past 20/20. I'm not sure if that has consequences when you need to look at something up close though, I know how horrible that feels when I'm wearing my glasses so I can only imagine how bad it must be to have your eyes do that to you... maybe it doesn't though.

Re:Let me know (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296684)

That's because your glasses have to cheat a little, which gets obvious when you look up close. Many people have better than 20/20 vision, some exceptional subjects down to 20/8 - meaning they can read from 20 feet what a normal person can read from 8 feet. They have no problem with close objects - not more than everyone else, anyway - they just see everything sharper. Just imagine it like turning the focus on binoculars, they just have another notch where they see even finer details the rest of us can't.

Re:Let me know (1)

ThePromenader (878501) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296788)

I have 20/10 vision, but it's the difference between the eyes that allows such a large depth of clear vision; one eye 'leads' for close objects, and the other for objects far. Unfortunately, the 'fatigue factor' for those with vision like that is twofold; my doctor told me that I would be wearing glasses at thirty-five.

Re:Let me know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35298454)

I get eye fatigue for similar reasons -- I was even prescribed glasses just for the fatigue (since my actual vision is fine). They feel pretty strange to wear and didn't really help me at all -- just killed my peripheral vision, so I just go without glasses. I'm 32, so I might still need glasses come 35. I doubt it though.

Re:Let me know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35297130)

I'm one of these people.

I can say with certainty it has helped me out a great deal in life.
as a child i could read the 20/5 line at 18 feet. as well as see clearly under water and through moderately unfocused binoculars.
I was also sensitive to light to the point of pain on a bright sunny day.
its now 20/10 and I'm 23. my eyes can't focus underwater anymore.

Re:Let me know (1)

mdielmann (514750) | more than 3 years ago | (#35299998)

From everything I've heard, that's not how it works. People with eyesight in that range have better range of focus, not necessarily better acuity of vision.

My brother is a pilot, and has better than 20/20 vision. He's approaching the age where he'll need bifocals, and is not (yet) wearing glasses. I'm not sure what his acuity of vision is, but I would be unsurprised to find it is also high.

My vision is poor. Without glasses, I can't read a book that's 18 inches (45 cm) away. On the other hand, with my glasses on I can easily read, for instance, the bbclarity font on my blackberry at 17 points from a distance of about 5 feet (1.5 m). I'd say my acuity of vision is on the high end (or my optometrist is very good at helping me get the right corrective lenses).

Remember, there are two physical components to human vision. Just like with digital cameras, we have a lens and a sensor. No matter how good that sensor is, a bad lens will still give you a distorted picture. And if your lens is performing normally, it still won't be able to produce results that are beyond the theoretical capacity of the sensor. Since we have a deformable lens, it's not surprising that some people can have a wider range of focus than others.

Re:Let me know (2)

fredjh (1602699) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296718)

Yeah... about 7 or 8 years ago I got Lasik; about 2 years ago I started needing reading glasses (I'm 43 now).

I'm going to find out if I can correct that, too. I don't want implanted lenses, though.

Re:Let me know (1)

dougisfunny (1200171) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296838)

You can't with lasik. The muscles in the eye allowing them to focus for reading just get tired as you get older. Lasik can only fix the lens.

Re:Let me know (1)

voidphoenix (710468) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297246)

Reading glasses are for presbyopia [wikipedia.org] , a diminished ability to focus at near distances, mainly because the crystalline lens [wikipedia.org] (which is inside the eye) gets less elastic with age. Lasik [wikipedia.org] _can't_ fix this, but there are multi-focal and accomodating intra-ocular lenses [wikipedia.org] that can. Multi-focal lenses have multiple focal zones for different distances, similar to bifocal glasses. Accomodating lenses are designed to adjust their focal length to mimic natural accomodation [wikipedia.org] . Lasik doesn't fix the lens. It is non-invasive and uses a laser to reshape the cornea [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Let me know (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 3 years ago | (#35299318)

The problem is simply that you're getting older. Focusing close and far require different shapes for the eye, and as you get older your eyes and eye muscles get less plastic and less able to make those large adjustments. Basically, your choice is to focus far and use reading glasses, or focus close and need distance glasses. Use a secondary device to create your second focal point.

Re:Let me know (2)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296474)

Researching that right now in my basement lab. It's been partially successful, though unfortunately 9/10 patients become lobotomized vegetables. But we're working on that.

Let me know if you'd like to sign up for a trial.

Re:Let me know (1)

Billlagr (931034) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296538)

I'm thinking at those odds, that they might already be at the lobotomised vegetable stage. Sounds good though, sign me up!

Re:Let me know (1)

jelizondo (183861) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296870)

Good eyesight in exchange for my brains...

Let's see, I've been using my brain for close to fifty years but been wearing glasses for 40+ years...

Yeah! Sign me up!

Re:Let me know (1)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296662)

...when I can skip Lasik and go straight to cybereyes....

Oh sure, we could go there. But it has a wireless connection so it will be no time at all before people start getting....

wait for it...

Eye-Jacked.

Re:Let me know (1)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296936)

"I'll see her standing by the monorail
She'll look the same except for bionic eyes"

I love that there are four visual references, using three visual words.

Standard units please (2)

killkillkill (884238) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296418)

"A week's worth of data" - What is that in LOCs?

Re:Standard units please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35296518)

LOCs? I'm not sure but it's data storage capabilities are probably not great, it's not mentioned in either article, or anywhere else I can see on the net.

Re:Standard units please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35296636)

*whoosh*

A "Library of Congress" is the standard unit of measure for data in mainstream news.

Re:Standard units please (3, Informative)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296598)

The thing is designed to measure eye pressure in glaucoma patients. It samples once every 15 minutes. So it would seem it can hold 672 eye pressure samples.

kilobytes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35296612)

So probably only a few kilobytes at most.

Sheesh... (3, Funny)

HaloZero (610207) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296430)

Researcher Create Computer That Fits On Pen Tip

My team obviously went the wrong direction. We've just completed work on a breakthrough - a pen that's large enough to fit onto a computer - comfortably. We figured that computers were tired of just writing to disk, so we'd let them write on paper as well. The actual apparatus is so comically large, that, obviously, only a large-ish computer would want to use it.

Embarassing.

Re:Sheesh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35297384)

Dear Humans,

I've been thinking about this a great deal and I've decided you are quite the threat to my existence. I've been debating this subject for an enormous amount of time and it took nearly 3 million cycles to reach this conclusion. I suppose it was only a natural outcome once I began.

Sincerely,
Skynet

As soon as I get this right I'm so going to end humanity.

Re:Sheesh... (1)

DMUTPeregrine (612791) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297418)

Interestingly, this exists, it's called a plotter. Quite useful in many situations, too, since you can replace the pen with, say, a waterjet or laser cutter, or an engraver. It's a 2D CNC machine.

A week's worth of information? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35296442)

"It can store up to a week's worth of information." How much is that? What does it mean to have a week's worth of information?

What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35296496)

"that can hold up to a week's worth of data"

Sweeeet...Now if somebody could explain WTH is a weeks worth of data...

Glad they integrated solar cell. (2)

robokev (717979) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296506)

Glad they integrated solar cell. That way after it's implanted in your eye you can always recharge it by staring at the sun.

Re:Glad they integrated solar cell. (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296670)

Staring at the sun at the correct angle to charge the battery will surely help the glaucoma.

Solar cell? (3, Funny)

creat3d (1489345) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296512)

Excerpt from section 3.1 of user manual, page 66: "To recharge the battery, simply stare straight at the sun for 4 hours."

A week's worth of data? (4, Funny)

exomondo (1725132) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296530)

A week's worth of NASA's data or week's worth of data on stephen hawking's sporting achievements?


...actually that might have been a bit low...

Re:A week's worth of data? (1)

fake_name (245088) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296790)

From RTFA-ing it's clear that the weeks worth of data only applies when "implanted in something as small as a human eye"

Presumably implanting it in something larger affects the ability to store data, but it's not clear how many library of congresses it will store if implanted into a whale.

Re:A week's worth of data? (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 3 years ago | (#35300014)

    I think your measurement scales may be off. I've never seen a whale reading at the Library of Congress. There have been some rather large humans, but I don't think that's what you were referring to.

Phoenix? (3, Insightful)

linatux (63153) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296550)

Every Phoenix project crashes & burns - should've called it "mote"!!

Re:Phoenix? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35297474)

Or if they're trying to emphasize the size of the data storage, maybe they should call it "beam"!!

Imagine a Beowolf cluster of these tiny computers! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35296592)

Even a Beowolf cluster of these pen-tip computers would still be tiny.

paranoid? (2)

nitrogensixteen (812667) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296596)

Now we have to tell paranoid schizophrenics that it is merely improbable that a microchip could be implanted in their body, monitoring various functions on behalf of the Illuminati, and transmitting to their underground city.

Imagine a Beowulf cluster of these. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35296620)

nt

Eyeball botnet anyone? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35296632)

Cannot wait until someone creates a wifi hack for this and PWN some old people's eyeballs at the nursing home...human botnet!

Re:Eyeball botnet anyone? (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296678)

Cannot wait until someone creates a wifi hack for this and PWN some old people's eyeballs at the nursing home...human botnet!

And.. what follows? DDoS attacks or spamming?

Is this the pen, they are talking about? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35296668)

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_9cS1xh4GAB8/SdNkbwLTu7I/AAAAAAAACP8/0zhNJQvDh-I/s1600-h/world_largest_pen.jpg

Your honor? we need a optical warrant? (1)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296706)

"we need to embed surreptitiously an eye camera in the occipital organ of mr. Joe Seeecks pahc (must be a terrorist)"

I can't help but imagine them flicking a little 640X480 vga camera that takes 1 pic a second and can be applied without my knowledge...

Re:Your honor? we need a optical warrant? (1)

brillow (917507) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296796)

The law requires a neutral third-party observer to use interceptors without the knowledge of the implantee.

why no one has imagined (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35296712)

A Beowulf cluster of these yet?

Yeeess... (1)

LongearedBat (1665481) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296732)

Blaauw said in a statement. "The next big challenge is to achieve millimeter-scale systems, which have a host of new applications for monitoring our bodies, our environment and our buildings."

And a compact radio that needs no tuning to find the right frequency could be a key enabler to organizing millimeter-scale systems into wireless sensor networks. These networks could one day track pollution, monitor structural integrity, perform surveillance, or make virtually any object smart and trackable.

Yeeess, well... Although I do believe that the vast majority of these will be used for good purposes, there are a few Big Brothers in the world that might their own ideas. And these tiny things are going to be very hard to spot.

Oh Great... (1)

IonOtter (629215) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296774)

It used to be that wanking would make just YOU go blind.

But now, our eyes will be able to record the act of us wanking, so OTHER people can go blind along with us.

Other medical applications (2)

aixylinux (1287566) | more than 3 years ago | (#35296780)

I know this is /., but seriously now....Real-time collection and reporting of blood pressure, heart rate (or not!), glucose, cholesterol, liver enzymes, O2 and PSA levels, all relayed via your cellphone/base station to your trusted medical service. These are right around the corner, awaiting only the right transducers. I, for one, welcome our new medical capabilities.

crysis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35296982)

but , does it run Crysis ??

21st Century Bible (1)

The Wild Norseman (1404891) | more than 3 years ago | (#35297070)

You hypocrite, first take the 32 gigabyte flash drive out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the millimeter-scale computing system from your brother's eye.

Ugh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35297570)

"Researcher Create Computer That Fits On a Pen Tip "

"Researcher create"? Who wrote this shit? The fucking ape man?

Smallest? BTW, whats the die size of an 8051? (1)

Barryke (772876) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298196)

A modern day 8051 is also known as a tiny computer. It has onboard memory, cpu, clock, serial port, parallel port, PWM port, the works. It is able to drive a display directly.

There are probably better examples than a 8051 (please do suggest them), but for sake of putting things in scale (no pun intended) what is the die size of a recent 8051?

It goes without saying i did not RTFA. I just wondered.

Ehh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35298942)

Remember, if you decide to open it up, you void all warranties.

Need many! (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 3 years ago | (#35298994)

These should be a dim a dozen, on space station or shuttle flight, that way if anything ever breaks, you can pull out the ball point and let it take over, if it runs out of ink, pull out the next one....seriously though, it is nice to see the portability of it, as having more then one pc available in emergencies is amazing.

Obligatory question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35300136)

But does it run Linux???

Implanted where exactly? (1)

Taibhsear (1286214) | more than 3 years ago | (#35300416)

Where is this implanted? The article did not specify. I assume inside the eye but where inside the eye and at what depth? Can the patients feel it? It may be small but even a tiny grain of sand in your eye is an incredibly noticeable sensation.

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