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Tag Archive: cybernetic technology


Review by C.J. Bunce

We have a review of the first of three tie-in books to the new Robert Rodriguez film Alita: Battle Angel coming your way.  Alita: Battle Angel should appeal to any fan of cyborgs–the story as envisioned by James Cameron was a pet project of the director for several years, one he’d picked up from Guillermo del Toro.  When Cameron decided to pursue management of his several Avatar sequels directly and finally handed over the project to Rodriguez he did so with more than 600 pages of notes he’d prepared.  The film is an adaptation of the manga Battle Angel: Alita by Yukito Kishiro, a story about self-discovery and empowerment via a centuries-old human brain that finds its way into the cybernetic body of a young girl.  A part-time doctor, part-time bounty hunter, Doctor Ido, played in the film by two-time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz, takes center stage in Alita: Battle Angel–Doctor Ido’s Journal, the new release by writer Nick Aires for Titan Books.

After losing his human daughter’s struggle to live, the Dr. Frankenstein-inspired Dr. Ido finds the “core” of a cyborg in a scrapyard with a surviving, living human brain.  He uses the prosthetics and futuristic body parts he’d designed for his daughter to rebuild a new girl, quasi-Pinocchio style, naming her Alita after his daughter.  The sci-fi story follows Alita as she tries to learn about her past and survive in a dystopian world that mixes inspirations from John Carpenter, Ridley Scott, Neill Blomkamp, and George Miller.  The visions of each of these directors’ best futuristic films comes through in Doctor Ido’s Journal, an in-universe document which reprints concept art, sketches, and photographs from the film, combining them with a diary entry narrative written by Aires in the place of Dr. Ido.  Doctor Ido’s Journal will be familiar to fans of Aires’ past in-universe books, including Oliver Queen’s Dossier, S.T.A.R. Labs: Cisco Ramon’s Journal, and Arrow: Heroes and Villains and works by others reviewed here, including Alien: The Weyland-Yutani Report, The Book of Alien: Augmented Reality Survival Manual, and the Batman v Superman Tech ManualFans will first find a cleverly designed flex-cover that mimics metal (a great design effect that would make for an attractive blank journal), followed by pages of dense notebook entries that track the action of the film, all from Dr. Ido’s perspective.

The artwork is exceptional, vivid engineering-level drawings like those found in Mark Salisbury’s Elysium: The Art of the Film, reviewed here at borg, and the combination of horror and beauty found in production artists Dan Hallett and Matt Hatton’s elaborate designs in Alien: Covenant: David’s Drawings, reviewed here (it’s worth noting the Weta Digital created much of the designs for both Alita: Battle Angel and Elysium, and the similarly realized scrap-metal worlds of Blomkamp’s District 9 and CHAPPIE).  At times the gear-heavy animatronics inside the cyborgs echo the real-world 19th century automaton past of these creations, making these modern borgs into something that feels almost steampunk.

Here are some preview pages from Alita: Battle Angel–Doctor Ido’s Journal courtesy of the publisher:

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Four artists are helping a UK company’s bionic arms become the functioning hands of many with the benefit of stylish designs.  Open Bionics is an entrepreneurial company that has created and fitted hundreds with its advanced, multi-grip bionic arms since their release this April.  Called the Hero Arm,  it’s the next step toward true borg technology and it’s been called a game-changer in health technology alongside genome sequencing, Fitbit, and smartphones.  From kids as young as nine years old who haven’t had arms and hands since birth to amputees of all ages, the 3D printed devices go beyond prosthetics of the past.  With the slogan “We turn disabilities into superpowers,” the company is doing that in more ways than one.  Instead of making the arms look like real arms, they are adding eye-popping designs–a feature praised by their users, who have remarked, “This is a cool way to stand out for all the right reasons.”  Instead of asking “what happened to your hand?” those seeing the Hero Arm on a person for the first time ask “how does that work?”  “Can we shake hands, can we do a fist bump, can I have a photo?”  The difference is a big one for wearers.

Open Bionics boasts the Hero Arm as “the first medically approved 3D printed arm.”  The Hero Arm is a lightweight, powered bionic hand controlled by the wearer’s muscles.  Because muscles generate small electrical signals when they contract, electrodes placed on the surface of the skin can measure muscle movements.  A full suite of tools provides feedback to the user, including posable wrist, posable thumb, and a freeze mode (for use when holding something like a glass), plus proportional control for varying tasks.  Comfortable, adjustable and breathable, the arm can lift more than 15 pounds of weight.  According to the company, the Hero Arm is half the price of its closest competitor.  Still, Open Bionics has stated that it has received donations to be able to provide free Hero Arms for qualifying children residing in the UK–the only place the bionic arms have been approved for sale.  They aren’t covered by the nation’s healthcare system yet and can cost about U.S. $2,500 on up.  Compare that to similar functioning U.S. electrical prosthetics with a cost upward of $50,000 to $100,000, and anyone can see why this product looks like the future of cybernetics.  (You can help a woman get her own Hero Arm via crowdfunding.  Learn more about her story below).

Hero Arms can also be worn with swappable custom covers.  And now Open Bionics has four new styles for wearers to get a Hero Arm that best fits their personality.  Each work shown (above, top, in order), was designed by an artist in Bristol: “Handala” by Daniel Bowler, “Tree Rex” by TRex, “Palette of Patterns” by J West, “Nebular” by Cheba, and “Open Bionics Doodles” by Kid Crayon.  Even more covers are available for the Hero Arm, like the futuristic Deux Ex design (above).  The Deus Ex video games explore human augmentation in a near future world.  Open Bionics partnered with Eidos Montreal, basing the Deux Ex cover on the game’s protagonist Adam Jensen.  (But they issue a disclaimer: It won’t give you the power to smash through walls!).  Check out the future of this technology at the partnership website AugmentedFuture.com.  Candidates for the Hero Arm can see customization options at the Open Bionics website here.

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The ultimate in original borg technology could be yours.  For the right price.

Auction house Profiles in History‘s Icons of Hollywood auction is December 15-16, 2011, and it offers another round of some of the best props and costumes Hollywood has to offer, from a set of Dorothy’s actual screen-used slippers from Wizard of Oz to Mork’s outfit from Mork & Mindy to Steve McQueen’s naval uniform from The Sand Pebbles to one of the cars used as the General Lee in Dukes of Hazzard to a DeLorean from Back to the Future III we discussed here this summer, to an original Dalek from Doctor Who.  There’s something at the coming auction for everyone.

But for fans of cybernetics, cyborgs, and bionics, and other early borg technologies, and fans of the Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman, nothing is cooler than the special effects arm modeled off of Lindsay Wagner as the Bionic Woman.  Next to one of the Bionic Man’s red jumpsuits (anyone have one for sale? let me know!) this is a great prop that gets to the heart of what the series was about.

It is a special effects arm made of latex, wires, springs, a circuit board and circuitry, used to show the implanting of an “evil programming chip” used as a key story element in the 1994 TV movie Bionic Ever After?, the show where Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers finally tie the knot.  It includes clamps, syringes and tubing that is reminiscent of the popular toy repair center from the 1970s.

The prop was used in a scene where the bad guys perform surgery on a drugged Jaime, implanting a chip with a computer virus in it to make her bionics go haywire.

It is estimated to sell for at least $2,000-$3,000.  It comes from the collection of movie makeup guru Jeff Goodwin, as discussed on this website, where you can see photos of other items he consigned to the coming Profiles in History auction.

More information on the auction can be found at the Profiles in History website.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg