FACT: On 14th March 2002 Professor Kevin Warwick became the worlds first Cyborg.
 

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C Y B O R G  2 . 0

 

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Interview with the Cyborg

After being given the all-clear by medical experts, Kevin Warwick was now on his way to transforming himself from 48-year-old cybernetics professor to 1-day-old Cyborg; but before the experiments could continue, something had to be done about the logistical as well as aesthetic properties of the piece.  All that delicate wiring, expensive circuitry, not to mention the on board power cells had to be held together somehow? - that's where we came in.
Thankfully, months earlier Mark Gasson, Kevin's number one man and project coordinator had already approached Sylak Special Effects, asking if we would like to get involved in the up-and-coming experiments?  With very little persuading we agreed!

We had the foresight to appreciate the importance of what this would mean; as did Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Aylesbury UK and the David Tolkien Trust (a charity which raises finance for research into the treatment of spinal injuries) - all of whom had offered their support to the project.  Also, the financial backing was already pretty much in place by the time we came on board (so there was little chance of us not being paid for our contribution): with companies like Computer Associates, Tumbleweed Communications and Fujitsu covering much of the tab.  But more important than all of the above was the fact that we were about to get involved in the type of work that we could have only previously dreamed about in the realms of science fiction.

So, months before the actual operation even took place, I was travelling up to Reading, to meet with Kevin and Mark, and discuss plans for the proposed 'outer shell casing' they wanted me to design for them - based on my current portfolio of work.
"The part of the implant which resides inside my body will only be about 3mm wide" Professor Warwick explained to me "...and each of the 100 electrodes, on the array, are only as thin as a human hair.  It's all the rest of the technology which, although when combined will still form part of my modification as a whole; will actually reside outside of my body - largely due to their shear size."

The first obvious question for me to ask as a consultant was: "What dimensions are we talking about here?".
Kevin turned to Mark Gasson for his feedback.
Mark took a deep breath "I can certainly give you some of the dimensions today.  In fact the amplifier board has just now been finished..." - and, with that he prepared to step out of the room, to go get it from the lab "...The main board however is still being developed.  I can see if Brian can give an idea of what the finished size might be?".
Mark left the meeting room, and re-entered moments later clutching a desk ruler and a small box containing one of the smaller PCBs.
"This is the one which attaches directly to the wires leading from the array." he explained.
"Fair enough" - I smiled - confidently, admiring the modest triangle of green plastic "I think we can start doing something with that!"
Mark let out a cautionary laugh "However..." he remarked "The main board will be somewhat larger in size!"

Ruler in hand, he began mapping out an 80x120mm area.
I had been hoping to proceed along the lines of my earlier 'Bio-Probe' concept; now it was becoming clear that I was going to have to rethink along the lines of producing a much bulkier item by far.
"I suppose that these are the limitations of current technology?" I presumed - fathoming the size.
Kevin seemed to empathise with this honest query "Yes, and No" he said "With a prototype model, it's not always necessary to begin designing costly chips and tailored parts simply to suit your needs.

We are relying, as much as possible, on using off-the-shelf components - which not only keep the costs down, but has the advantage that they've already been fully bench tested.  The fact that this magnifies the overall scale a bit, only serves to make it far easier when it comes to troubleshooting any potential problems."

Next...
Back at Sylak Special Effects, work begins on planning the Cyber-Gauntlet.

 

  S Y L A K    S P E C I A L   E F F E C T S
Designing the future of today

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Photographs by kind permission of Marc Gasson

This page was Designed/Reviewed/Updated by the WebMaster on 22/10/2004