DNA
The DNA of E.Coli was the building block for the new biological transistor. Image: Flickr / mknowles / CC-BY-SA

The stories of human-computer hybrids have long been fodder for sci-fi. Now, two new developments in science have brought the possibility of biological computers much closer than they have been before.

Biological transistors created

In a paper published in the journal Nature Communications, the Imperial College in London announced that a team had created biological transistor gates. DNA alterations on E.Coli viruses created logic transistors that are able to open or close based on a true-false electrical signal — the basis of binary code. The E.Coli viruses used to create these transistors are all normally found in the human digestive system and would theoretically be compatible with the human body.

Wearable touchscreen developed

In a combined effort, Microsoft Research and Carnegie Mellon University have announced that a wearable touchscreen has been developed. The system uses a laser projector and depth-sensing camera. The system projects a touch screen onto any surface (including skin), and tracks hand and finger movements. This means that any surface can become a touchscreen or keyboard. The current OmniTouch system is housed in a shoulder-worn unit, and can project onto almost any surface. The unit is too bulky for commercial sale, but plans are in place to shrink the unit.

Uses for bio-computing

These developments and others have been making the possibility of biologically compatible computers more likely. Medical science is especially interested in the possibility, as programmable, biologically neutral computers would be able to improve diagnostics. Medical science is not the only use for these developments, but it is sure to be one of the first uses. Truly usable, commercial biological computers are likely to be years, if not decades away. These developments, however, are two major steps toward the reality.

Sources

Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2050500/Biological-computers-soon-reality-scientists-build-basic-components-bacteria-DNA.html?ITO=1490
Tom’s Hardware: http://www.tomshardware.com/news/science-research-bacteria-dna-transistor-gate,13747.html
Electronics Weekly: http://www.electronicsweekly.com/Articles/18/10/2011/52071/logic-gates-from-bacteria-and-dna.htm
Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/mobiledia/2011/10/19/turn-any-surface-into-a-touch-screen/

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