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For years, movie producers have been releasing films that promise — or threaten — the eventual development of “artificial intelligence.” Many of these movies, like the “Terminator” series and “Tron,” foretell of near-certain doom for the human race if we do not learn how to outsmart the machines that we ourselves will in time create. But on the health care horizon, the advent of artificial intelligence is already here, and is both benevolent and supremely supportive to people who are in pain or are limited in life in some way due to a health-related reason. Some of the most exciting advances are paving the way for formerly blind people to see, deaf people to hear, epileptics to relax and burn victims to generate new skin.

Artificial Intelligence: Technology Plus Education

There are many interesting, thought-provoking definitions of the phrase “artificial intelligence.” Most reference the field of computer science — as in the first of Merriam-Webster’s two-part definition: “a branch of computer science dealing with the simulation of intelligent behavior in computers.” The second part of Merriam-Webster’s definition, however, underscores significant contributions from the field of education to this fast growing industry: “the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior.” As such, many of today’s most exciting technological advances actually represent a working partnership between two fields: technology and education.

Deaf and Blind No Longer

As long as you have all of your faculties and they all work properly, it is perhaps interesting at best to contemplate how you would cope if you suddenly found out you were going to go blind, lose your hearing or become disabled in some way. But for people who are already struggling with these difficult realities, the development of new artificial intelligence tools to restore sight, hearing and full function is a long-awaited dream come true. Here are some exciting new developments for hearing and sight that are already helping people regain these important faculties.

  • The artificial retina. Five national labs have partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to create an artificial retina that can restore sight to the blind. The artificial retina works by re-establishing communication between the eye and the neural message-carrier cells.
  • The glaucoma contact lens. By wearing this contact lens, created by Sensimed, for a single day, doctors can now detect the presence of glaucoma, a disease that causes irreversible blindness, much more quickly by measuring inter-ocular pressure.
  • The “smart” hearing aid. This smart hearing aid, manufactured by Oticon, has such sensitive circuitry that it can distinguish between background noise and spoken words. The device is so effective that some members of the deaf community are actually concerned it will cause trauma in children who have been deaf since birth and do not know what it is to hear.

No Seizures, New Skin and Smart Meds

The fields of medicine dealing with vision and hearing have certainly benefitted greatly from the development of health care-related artificial intelligence tools. But tools targeting brain performance, skin regrowth and medication delivery are making equally amazing waves in the health care field today.

  • Smart pills. With these newly developed smart medications from Philips Research, the potent ingredients are delivered right to the area where they are most needed. Right now the technology is developed most fully for digestive ailments such as Crohn’s disease and colon cancer.
  • “No seizures” brain implant. NeuroPace has developed the RNS system, a tiny brain implant device that can detect seizures before they actually occur and deliver electro-stimulation to the area to avert the seizure.
  • New skin on order. At Wake Forest University, researchers have taken the art of printing to an entirely new level. By using ink jet printer technology, they have crafted a way to print the building block proteins for making new skin right onto the bodies of burn victims in the areas where new skin growth is needed.

With these amazing medical advances, clearly there has never been a more exciting time to enter the field of health care. In addition to the remarkable work being done by researchers and scientists, educators are in equally high demand to alert the public of these new tools that can improve their quality of life.

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