IIT's Techfest had a special lecturer on Sunday. A lanky Englishman who calls the Terminator a documentary and predicts that a large chunk of the Indian population will consist of cyborgs in a little over thirty years.
The man in question? Professor Kevin Warwick. One of the most prominent cybernetics professor cum researcher in the world and a self confessed Indophile, on his third trip to IIT Mumbai's Techfest 2007.
His lecture cum demonstration on cybernetics was the grand finale in the series of lectures at the festival. The cheeky professor kicked off his lecture by showing the Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) chip that had been implanted in his arm in 1998, for which he gained international prominence and also, notoriety.
He explained how the chip enabled him to walk into his office without an identity card and switch on lights the moment he entered any room in his lab. "And after a little advancement, even the lab computer would greet me by saying 'Welcome Professor Warwick'," said the professor. "We are friendlier now, it calls me Kevin."
The second half of the lecture was dedicated to the medical use of cybernetics and his current project.
"There are already examples of how electronic chips have been used to help patients with epilepsy and Parkinson's disease," said the Professor. "It has opened up a whole new field of medicine."
He later showed videos of his experiments, which included; the linking of a complex chip to his nervous system that enabled him to feel impulses sent to him from a computer and an experiment where he used his brain signal to move a robotic arm 5000 kms away.
And the final act of his lecture, was a demonstration in which he fitted a blindfolded student with ultrasonic sensors and asked her to walk around the stage using a mechanism similar to the one bats use to navigate. And needless to say, it was successful.
Email Tushar Abhichandani: tushar .firstname.lastname@example.org