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Researchers Create Computer That Fits On a Pen Tip 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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Researchers Create Computer That Fits On a Pen Tip

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    I must say.
    • 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 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

      • Of course, it sucks when that lithium battery blows up in your eye!

      • lol, you just betrayed your sig

        • 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.

          • but replying to trolls is one of the few pleasures i get from /. :)

            also, there's plenty of non-AC trolls around here.

            troll is in the eye of the betroller.

    • 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.
  • I want that bad boy right in my eye...

    Both eyes even!!!!
  • Dr. John Connor. Paging Dr. John Connor.
  • Well, at least it "fits on pen tip" rather than "fit on pen tip."
  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...does it run Linux?

  • Let me know (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ceriphim ( 1530579 ) on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @10:58PM (#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.
    • 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.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        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.

        • 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.

        • 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

      • by fredjh ( 1602699 )

        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.

        • 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.

          • Reading glasses are for presbyopia [], a diminished ability to focus at near distances, mainly because the crystalline lens [] (which is inside the eye) gets less elastic with age. Lasik [] _can't_ fix this, but there are multi-focal and accomodating intra-ocular lenses [] 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 []. Lasik doesn't fix the lens. It is non-invasive an
        • 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.

    • 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.

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

    • ...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...


    • Who knows what bondage goes with metal eyes?

    • by Thing 1 ( 178996 )

      "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.

  • "A week's worth of data" - What is that in LOCs?
  • Sheesh... (Score:4, Funny)

    by HaloZero ( 610207 ) <protodeka&gmail,com> on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @11:07PM (#35296430) Homepage

    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.


    • 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.
  • by MrEricSir ( 398214 ) on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @11:20PM (#35296490) Homepage

    Okay fine, but what am I going to do with the rest of the pen? Throw it away? Sheesh, stupid researchers.

  • Glad they integrated solar cell. That way after it's implanted in your eye you can always recharge it by staring at the sun.
    • by c0lo ( 1497653 )
      Staring at the sun at the correct angle to charge the battery will surely help the glaucoma.
  • Solar cell? (Score:3, Funny)

    by creat3d ( 1489345 ) on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @11:27PM (#35296512) Homepage
    Excerpt from section 3.1 of user manual, page 66: "To recharge the battery, simply stare straight at the sun for 4 hours."
  • A weeks worth of data on a pen-tip? How many Libraries of Congress per Volkswagon is that?

  • by exomondo ( 1725132 ) on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @11:29PM (#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...
    • No actually it was effing hilarious.
    • 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.

      •     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? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by linatux ( 63153 ) on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @11:32PM (#35296550)

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

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

  • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward

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

    • by c0lo ( 1497653 )

      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?

  • In related news, the University of Michigan received a research grant from EYE Tech [].

  • Can it run Crysis?

  • "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...

    • by brillow ( 917507 )
      The law requires a neutral third-party observer to use interceptors without the knowledge of the implantee.
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • only old people have computers implanted in their eyes.
  • 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.

  • is the antenna telescopic?
  • (ghost in the shell reference)... I don't like where this might lead.
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • does it run BSD?
  • Is there anyone working on a port?

The party adjourned to a hot tub, yes. Fully clothed, I might add. -- IBM employee, testifying in California State Supreme Court