A cyborg being ‘born’ live on stage and robots that can assist in the care of the elderly were some of the highlights of the Tech Summit at Cork City Hall.
The seventh installment of the Tech Summit, which is organised by voluntary tech group IT@Cork and has the Irish Examiner as a media partner, saw an audience transfixed as event co-chair, Denis Canty, receive a so-called smart implant live on stage, making him the first live cyborg seen by an Irish audience.
Mr Canty, an automation and artificial intelligence expert at McKesson, was fitted with the device by Patrick Kramer, the chief cyborg officer with Vivokey Technologies.
Dr Kramer said it was a demonstration of how the amount of technology inside our bodies will increase in the future, until cyborgs are as familiar in everyday life as Facebook or Google.
He predicted implants will eventually replace the smartphone, the stuff of futuristic sci-fi blockbusters.
“People are already using smart implants in place of their car keys,” said Dr Kramer. “Further developments in this field — expected to come on stream this summer — including the implantation of next-generation chips, which will allow people to replace their smartphones with a microchip.”
Mr Canty said: “To have all of these learned people and fascinating technologies under one roof was truly thrilling.”
Conor McGinn, head of robotics and assistant professor at Trinity College Dublin, enthralled the 250-plus in attendance with Stevie, the prototype robot that could become part carer and part friend to the elderly.
Stevie is a humanoid robot designed to let people live at home but get the benefits of assisted livng.
Stevie was developed by researchers and engineers at TCD who began using a Playstation controller, 3D-printed plastic arms and a head to put him together.
Mr McGinn said one in three people over 65 has had a fall and more than €1bn a year is spent to treat injuries, while dementia is set to double by 2037. The use of technology to combat health issues, as well as the scourge of loneliness, could be crucial in the future, he said.
“Stevie’s primary goal is to combat loneliness but he also works as a first responder and supports cognitive engagement,” said Mr McGinn.
Caroline O’Driscoll, chairwoman of IT@Cork, said Cork has to grab the opportunities coming its way in the coming years.
“We are a city big on life, talent and tech. We need to support of the innovators and the entrepreneurs,” she noted, adding that the city’s docklands is a “gem of a site if we get it right”.
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