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Image credit: iDigitalTrends
Image credit: iDigitalTrends

While the “Ice Bucket Challenge” raised millions to fuel research toward a cure for
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), there are a number of assistive technologies already at work to help those currently affected by the disease. According to Alisa Brownlee, a clinical manager for the ALS Association, more assistive technologies and brain-computer-interfaces are on the way. At present, the largest hurdle is access.

Brownlee noted that the loss of communication is often the hardest part of ALS for someone to endure. As ALS is a progressive disease, there are several forms of assistive technology that are used based on a given patient’s physical status. Each form of that technology will work for awhile, but then patients will have to move on to something else as the disease progresses, she says.

Using computer access as one way to help maintain an ALS patient’s communication skills, ALS patients can transition to a track-ball mouse and on-screen keyboard in lieu of a standard computer mouse. From there, a person can use a head-mount, eye-gaze system, and even a tablet computer with a switch scanner.

“It depends on which type of device the individual wants and their physical limitations when we are getting involved with them. They can go from the very simple to the very complex,” Brownlee said. “Technology is wonderful, but it’s not for everyone. So it’s important to involve the person, understand their personality and understand their coping mechanism dealing with the loss of communication.”

While it’s a significant improvement over what was available 10 or 20 years ago, this assistive technology has its limitations, Brownlee said. A system which requires the user to dwell over a letter to type, such as a head mouse, is pretty much limited to five to seven words a minute, which can be frustrating when the average adult speaks about 150 to 200 words a minute. Further, eye-gaze systems can’t be used in natural light by those with underlying eye issues, such as users with tri-focals, torn retinas, or pupils that are too dark; plus, they can be difficult to calibrate.

“That’s the one thing I hear from our caregivers all the time, ‘Hey we can’t get the thing to calibrate!’” she said. “It has to be 23 inches away from the user and, if your positioning is anything less than that, it gets real difficult. It’s just real frustrating.”

Looking to the future of assistive technologies, wearable technology such as Google Glass is already showing great promise in helping those with ALS and other disabilities communicate, Brownlee said. The Google Glass headset is easy to calibrate, can be used in any light, and can be accessed by its user whether they’re sitting up or laying in bed, she said.

Costing a fraction of a standard $15,000 eye-gaze system, Google Glass is more affordable option, Brownlee added. Though there are still some user interface problems that need to be addressed, new applications to make Google Glass even more accessible to those with disabilities are in the works..

“A colleague of mine is working on how to drive a powered wheelchair through Google Glass. Because ALS is a progressive disease, we have a lot of people who can not drive their wheelchairs anymore because they’ve lost the function in their hands,” Brownlee said. “If this comes to fruition, you could be able to drive your wheelchair through Glass. And this could open up a whole world for many people with disabilities. It could also make a huge financial burden much easier, so people with disabilities could afford technology, because right now, it’s unaffordable.”

Flickr By spcbrass

The headlines pound away at us day after day with ominous news. Ebola has the potential to spread around the globe through rapid transport on airplanes, trains and automobiles. The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other health experts do not recommend shutting down air travel from West Africa. “If you try to shut down air travel and sea travel, you risk affecting to a huge extent the economy, people’s livelihoods and their ability to get around without stopping the virus from traveling,” said Greg Hartl, a World Health Organization spokesperson.

In a recent poll, a majority of Americans believe air travel restrictions are a necessity to stop the spread of Ebola in the United States. In fact, 56 percent said the federal government should bar those who have “recently” been in Ebola nations from entering the U.S. It is obvious we must find better ways to use technology to our advantage to detect people who are showing symptoms of the virus. This is where augmented reality and wearable technology can improve our detection rate of sick people stricken with Ebola.

Currently Ebola screening is taking place at five United States airports: Newark, Atlanta, Chicago, New York and Washington. US government officials claim that 95% of travels from West Africa would go through those airports to enter the United States. Once a traveller passed a screener check-point, they would be free to enter the US without being monitored after that point.

Recent promising technology developments show that thermal imaging devices can be attached to smartphones for use. Common sense would dictate that if we can leverage thermal imaging devices on smartphones that we can also use Augmented Reality (AR) wearable glasses for the same use. Meta Space Glasses, Vuzix, Epson, Google Glass and a host of other new wearable AR glasses could create an incredible opportunity to detect people with fevers that may be contagious with the Ebola virus just by looking at them with this promising technology.

FLIR One has an attachable device for the iPhone 5S that can turn it into a thermal imagine device for $349.99. That alone is impressive. This is a tangible use that is already on the market. Redesigning an Augmented Reality use would not be an impossible feat. A key feature, according to some online reviews of the FLIR One, is that the device can determine the temperature of a person or object in view.

I am not an expert in thermal imaging, but current technology should be able to develop an alert of a temperature on a person that exceeds 99 degrees Fahrenheit. If my Augmented Reality thermal imaging glasses detect a person with a heat signature of over 99 degrees Fahrenheit, a digital overlay alert pop-up could appear in front of my eyes. Border Patrol agents, police officers, medical professionals, school officials, and other vital stakeholders could easily monitor areas all over the country and world to be quickly alerted to someone who has a high fever. Many civilians would buy the device just to protect their own family! Medical teams could quickly identify someone who may be infected with the Ebola virus.

This is an incredible opportunity to finally show how Augmented Reality, coupled with other cutting-edge technologies can save countless lives. This solution can permeate throughout the United States and the world. If we look at computer security, a firewall alone is not the best defense to prevent a computer virus. An Intrusion Detection System (IDS) , along with a firewall, can detect suspicious traffic within a computer network and thwart a serious breach of security. AR thermal imaging glasses tweaked with accurate temperature alerts can be our Ebola IDS system which we desperately need.

The clock is ticking and we need to think outside the box to protect our communities and our families. The Augmented Reality community is an international group that has been pushing AR in a positive direction. It is our moment to shine and step up in this challenging time in history. The future of humanity may depend on it.


[Update 10/18/14] — Augmented Legality Expert Brian Wassom responded to this article and discussed some of the legal ramifications of scanning someone with a thermal imaging device. Click HERE for his legal insight.

Brian Wassom also alerted me to a new thermal imaging device that rivals the FLIR One called the Seek Thermal Infared camera for smartphones for $199. Thanks to Twitter user @seeingwithsound. reviews the device. What is interesting is that you can set the device to scan for skin temperatures of humans.

AR expert Frank Maggiore also advised me of the IR-Blue DM which also “connects using Bluetooth to your iPhone or Android device to show the temperature readings as colors on the screen” for $195. This clearly shows there are new options of devices on both Android and iOS to potentially use to stop Ebola.

Image Credit: Flickr By spcbrass


Joseph Rampolla is a police Captain who has been teaching in the realm of cyber-crime, counter-terrorism, and emerging technologies. His passion is to teach about the positive uses of emerging technologies while raising awareness to the potential downside of innovation. He has dedicated his life to teaming up with eWarriors and Lifeboat supporters around the globe to protect the innocent in this lifelong mission. ” The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.” by William James is one of his favorite quotes.

Joseph currently is the host of a global podcast called Augmented Reality Dirt. AR Dirt explores how augmented reality influences society, cyber-crime, and our legal system. AR Dirt has listeners in over 99 countries and can be heard free via iOS, Android, and Window devices. Go to to find out how to download it for free on your smartphone or tablet.


Transhumanism is all about the creative and ethical use of technology to better the human condition. Futurists, when discussing topics related to transhumanism, tend to look at nano-tech, bio-mechanical augmentation and related technology that, for the most part, is beyond the comprehension of lay-people.

If Transhumanism as a movement is to succeed, we have to explain it’s goals and benefits to humanity by addressing the common-man. After all, transhumanism is not the exclusive domain, nor restricted to the literati, academia or the rich. The more the common man realizes that (s)he is indeed already transhuman in a way — the lesser the taboo associated with the movement and the faster the law of accelerating returns will kick in, leading to eventual Tech Singularity.

Augmented Reality Visors: Enabling Transhumanism.

At the moment, Google Glass is not exactly within reach of the common man, even if he want’s to pay for it. It is “invite only”, which may be counter productive to furthering the Transhumanism cause. Now, to be fair, it may be because the device is still in beta testing, and once any bugs have been ironed out, the general public will benefit from both, a price drop and accessibility, because if Google does not do it, China will.

Google Glass: A Transhumanist’s Swiss Knife

Glass is the very definition of an augmented human, at least until the time hi-tech replaceable eye-balls, or non-obtrusive human augmentation technology becomes common-place. Glass is a good attempt at a wearable computing device that is practical. While it does lend a cyborg look to it’s wearer, future iterations will no doubt, bring the “Matrix” look back into vogue.


Above: Companies such as Vuzix, already have advanced AR capable visors that are aesthetically pleasing to look at and wear. So how is Google Glass (and similar AR visors) the Swiss Army Knife of Transhumanists?

Augmented Human Memory:

Wearing glass, allows a Transhuman to offload his/her memory to glass storage. Everyday examples follow…

- Park your car in a multi-story parking lot, step back a few steps and blink your eyes once. Instant photographic memory of the location via Glass’s wink activated snapshot feature.

- Visited a place once and don’t remember? Call on your “expanded” memory to playback a video recording of the path taken, or display a GPS powered visual overlay in your field of view.

Previously, this was done via a cellphone. In both cases, one is already Transhuman. This is what the common man needs to be made aware of and there will be less of a stigma attached to: The World’s most dangerous idea.

Life Saver — “Glass Angel”

Every one is said to have a “Guardian Angel” watching over them, yet an app named “Glass Angel” would be an apt name for a collection of potentially life saving modules that could run on Google Glass.

- CPR Assist: How many people can honestly say they know CPR? or even the Heimlich maneuver? Crucial moments can be saved when access to such knowledge is available… while freeing up our hands to assist the person in distress. In future iterations of Google glass (glass v2.0?) if true augmented reality capability is provided, a CGI human skeleton can be overlaid on the live patient, giving visual cues to further assist in such kinds of situations.

- Driver Safety: There are some states in the US looking at banning the use of Google Glass while driving. Yet, it is interesting to note that Glass could be that Guardian Angel watching over a driver who might nod off at the wheel after a long day at work. (DUI is not an excuse however to use Glass). The various sensors can monitor for tilt of head and sound an alarm, or even recognize unusual behavior of the wearer by analyzing and tracking the live video feed coming in through the camera…sounding an alarm to warn the wearer.

Augmented Intelligence — or — Amplified Intelligence:

How many times a day do we rely on auto-spell or Google’s auto correct to pop up and say “Did you mean” to warn us of spelling errors or even context errors? How many times have we blindly trusted Google to go ahead and auto-correct for us? While it can be argued that dependence on technology is actually dulling our brains, it is an un-arguable fact that over the coming years, grammar, multi-lingual communication, and more advanced forms of intelligence augmentation will make technology such as Google Glass and it’s successors, indispensable.

Possibly, the Singularity is not all that far away… If the Singularity is the point when Technology overtakes human intelligence… I see it as the point when human intelligence regresses to meet technology, mid-way.

On a more serious note: Should we be alarmed at our increasing dependence on Augmented Intelligence? or should we think of it as simply a storage and retrieval system.

If a lecturer on-stage, addressing a gathering of intellectuals, uses his eyeballs to scroll up a list of synonyms in real time on his Google glass display, to use a more succinct word or phrase when making a point, does that make him sound more intelligent?… how about if he punctuates the point by calling up the german translation of the phrase?

These are questions that I leave open to you…


Digital Bread Crumbs- Quantum Archeology and Immortality.

Every time we share a photo, a thought… an emotion as a status update: we are converting a biological function into a digital one. We are digitizing our analog stream-of-consciousness.

These Digital Breadcrumbs that we leave behind, will be mined by “deep learning” algorithms, feeding necessary data that will drive Quantum Archeology processes… that may one day soon, resurrect us — Digital Resurrection. This might sound like a Transhumanist’s Hansel and Gretel fairy-tale… but not for long.

How does Google Glass fit in? It’s the device that will accelerate the creation of Digital Bread-crumbs. I’d saved this most radical idea for last: Digital Resurrection.

Glass is already generating these BreadCrumbs — transhumanizing the first round of beta testers wearing the device.

The next version of Google Glass, if it features true see-through Augmented Reality support, or indeed a visor from a Google competitor, will allow us to see and interact with these Digital Surrogates of immortal beings. It’s described with plausible hard science to back it up, in Chapter 6 of Memories with Maya — The Dirrogate.

I’d like to end this essay by opening it up to wiki like input from you. What ideas can you come up with to make Google Glass a swiss army knife for Transhumanists?

(This article was originally posted on the Science behind the story section on