How Israeli tech makes science fiction into fact, on display
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How Israeli tech makes science fiction into fact, on display

From Star Trek to the Six Million Dollar Man, what was once the product of an imaginative scriptwriter has now become real-world tech

What's really in that cheese? SCIO knows (Courtesy)
What's really in that cheese? SCIO knows (Courtesy)

The science fiction of yesterday is the science fact of today – and some of those made-in-Israel science fiction-to-fact was on display last week at the Israeli headquarters of EMC, at a special event celebrating the company’s Global Innovation Day. “There’s been so much innovation in health care in recent years, much of it developed in Israel,” said Roni Frumkes, Innovation and Business Development leader for the EMC Herzliya Center of Excellence. “It’s a big inspiration to our people to get all these innovations together in one room.”

One of those fiction-to-fact stories is SCIO, the world’s first device that can scan products and provide a list of ingredients, components, materials, and other important information about food, pharmaceuticals, plants, and much more. Like the tricorder on TV’s Star Trek, which could scan items and provide information about their physical makeup, the SCIO device provides information about the materials, and the product – vitamins, calories, product recalls, active ingredients in over-the-counter pills, and more.

Then there was Steve Austin the Six Million Dollar Man (a lot of money back in the 1970s, when the series premiered). Like in that show, artificial replacements for human organs are used to prolong life and well-being – like the LVAD (left ventricular assist devices), which essentially function as artificial hearts, considering that most heart failures are left ventricular failures. Although not invented in Israel, an Israeli doctor – Dr. Jacob Lavee, the chief of cardiovascular surgery at the Sheba Hospital – was the first surgeon in the world to implant the device in a patient.

“We’ve implanted over 150 patients with these devices, and we’ve been working on ways to improve their efficiency and battery life,” said Lavee. “An individual could function with one of these until a suitable heart is found for a transplant, or indefinitely, if the patient wanted to avoid a transplant.”

Sheba Hospital patients who have had an LVAD implant to help their heart operate normally (Courtesy)
Sheba Hospital patients who have had an LVAD implant to help their heart operate normally (Courtesy)

The EMC Global Innovation Day – which, Frumkes said, the company expects to continue regardless of whether it remains independent or is bought by US computer company Dell, as expected – has become a celebration of technology, with top lecturers speaking about technology, medicine, cyber-security, and other leading-edge topics. This is the fourth year that the event was held, said Frumkes, and each year the Israel office chooses a different topic – with medical technology selected this year. “We do this because we are an innovation center, and we want to keep employees in touch with the spirit of innovation. What is more inspiring that developing a device that can actually read minds?”

Nathan Intrator (L) and a student show off the Neurosteer EEG helmet (Courtesy)
Nathan Intrator (L) and a student show off the Neurosteer EEG helmet (Courtesy)

That device would be the EEG helmet used by the Neurosteer team to read brain signals and translate them into real-world actions. “We see games as a tool for neurofeedback,” said Neurosteer CEO Nathan Intrator. “By training the brain to use its thoughts effectively we hope to be able to control conditions like motor disorders, or prevent migraines.” One of those games involves two people playing a game where a car heads down a track, guided by thoughts of happiness. “We can identify the brain activity associated with happiness, and build an algorithm that detects it and channels it into an application,” said Intrator. “The happier a person is, the faster the car will go.”

EMC Israel chairperson Orna Berry (right) looks on at one of the technologies on display at EMC Global Innovation Day, November 17, 2015 (Courtesy)
EMC Israel chairperson Orna Berry (right) looks on at one of the technologies on display at EMC Global Innovation Day, November 17, 2015 (Courtesy)

Emotions or thoughts can be “read” to create digital art (with a work created based on thoughts that control the shape, size, or color), to control the distance a ball is rolled, or to detect when sleep is coming on in order to alert a driver to move over to the side of the road and rest (an application that does just that, based on the Neurosteer system, won a hackathon at Bar Ilan University last week). “With these applications, you can train your brain to think more effectively, and control your environment using your thoughts,” said Intrator. “It’s a very exciting field with a lot of potential.”

“EMC is involved in a lot of areas, like cyber-security, big data, cloud computing, and much more,” said Frumkes. “Once in awhile it’s good to bring in examples of what that technology can do. In this case, the inspiration is in seeing how science fiction has come to life with technology. It’s great to have all these Israeli-developed technologies in one place.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2C83tbuBmWY

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