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Power The Military United States Idle Technology

DARPA To Turn Humans Into Batteries 183

Posted by samzenpus
from the electric-personality dept.
DARPA is working on a project that will convert energy from the human body to power a variety of military gadgets. From the article: "Obviously, our bodies generate heat — thermal energy. They also produce vibrations when we move — kinetic energy. Both forms of energy can be converted into electricity. Anantha Chandrakasan, an MIT electrical engineering professor, who is working on the problem with a former student named Yogesh Ramadass, says the challenge is to harvest adequate amounts of power from the body and then efficiently direct it to the device that needs it." If I remember the movie correctly, this didn't turn out so well for the humans.
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DARPA To Turn Humans Into Batteries

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 16, 2010 @10:17AM (#32925766)

    Appear after this comment

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by dintech (998802)

      1984 wasn't supposed to be a guide book. Oh wait, I mean The Matrix...

    • by Rijnzael (1294596) on Friday July 16, 2010 @10:19AM (#32925816)
      Now what's really going to get you later on is, would people have made Matrix jokes if you hadn't said anything?
      • by capnchicken (664317) on Friday July 16, 2010 @10:23AM (#32925862)

        Yes. Yes they would. It doesn't take an Oracle to predict slashdot, hell you can predict it with DB2! Zing!

    • by capnchicken (664317) on Friday July 16, 2010 @10:20AM (#32925822)
    • by happy_place (632005) on Friday July 16, 2010 @10:23AM (#32925856) Homepage

      Here's a joke from the Matrix's central core...

      Q. How many humans does it take to change a lightbulb?

      A. Humans don't change lightbulbs, they power lightbulbs.

      • Here's another joke about the Matrix core...

        Q: If humans are the batteries to supply energy to the machines, where do the humans get their energy to stay alive?
        A: Um..... er..... uh..... (runs away)

        Yeah. The Matrix is pure Fantasy fiction not science fiction. No way could that world exist in our reality. Maybe the Matrix machines feed the humans with Unobtainium (aka magic).

        • by shaitand (626655)

          The humans get their energy from the nutrient filled goo. DUH. Where do they get the nutrients for the goo you ask? From the dead humans! DUH.

          Obviously it's a depleting system with fewer and fewer humans to be gotten each time around. But one can also assume that when the sky was blacked out there was vegetation and vegetable and animal organics. The machines could have found a way to convert that into sugars (along with the other dead humans of course) and nutrients to feed the humans.

          There is quite a bit

          • >>>Obviously it's a depleting system with fewer and fewer humans to be gotten each time around.

            That's an understatement. It takes about 300 pounds of meat, per year, to keep a person alive. Or two corpses. The human population would quickly decrease, as you'd kill 2 for every 1 left alive.

            6 billion - kill 2/3rds of them
            == 2 billion - kill 2/3rds of them
            == 0.66 billion - kill 2/rds of them
            == 200 million - kill 2/rds of them
            == 74 million

            And so on.

          • The humans get their energy from the nutrient filled goo. DUH. Where do they get the nutrients for the goo you ask? From the dead humans! DUH.

            Obviously it's a depleting system with fewer and fewer humans to be gotten each time around. But one can also assume that when the sky was blacked out there was vegetation and vegetable and animal organics. The machines could have found a way to convert that into sugars (along with the other dead humans of course) and nutrients to feed the humans.

            There is quite a bit of organic energy already here.

            The original idea was that the matrix was a distributed system using human brains as nodes. That's why the humans were jacked in. When you think about it that way, the whole movie becomes at least two times better.

            The hollywood people decided that would be too confusing to the audience, and thus the reason for the humans to be hooked in became a thermodynamic WTF.

            • by dissy (172727)

              Well, if you use the 4th movie in the series (The Anamatrix), parts 2 and 3 (The renascence stories, its a 2 parter) addresses all of that.

              The humans picked a fight with the AI. The AI fought back and of course won.

              We took their main power source (The sun) so they turned to other power sources. (Us)

              So unfortunately yes, the failings of that plot line are valid complaints.

              This plot/story of that 4th part is pretty much directly from the minds of the Wachowski's and their crew (writters and stuff)
              Hollywood d

        • by BobMcD (601576)

          I thought it was pretty clear there was a tube running down Neo's throat. Wouldn't they just pump nutrients in that way? Or hell, since he had never been born they could be doing something similar to the umbilical cord.

          At any rate, it isn't at all vague. The humans get energy from 'eating', which means the machines are getting their electricity in the same way we're getting beef.

          You could make an argument that it isn't efficient enough, or something, but that would be forgetting both that this is future-

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Thinboy00 (1190815)

            That's it, time to call the Mythbusters!

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by ThePlague (30616) *

            Can you get power from humans? Sure, but why would you specifically breed them for that purpose? I mean, really, nuclear would be a great deal easier, and provide much more power. So would burning coal. In either case, you don't need to set up an elaborate virtual reality to keep the fuel cells in line. Hell, even if you accept that bio-generated heat is an ideal power source, why not use cows? The VR would be a great deal simpler. Finally, even if for some bizarre reason humans are the only option,

            • by BobMcD (601576)

              You make a good point, but don't forget that the machines were made by humans, who designed all of their code.

              Perhaps they gravitate toward humans sub-consciously?

              Wasn't covered in the movie that way, I don't think, but then I've worked pretty hard to purge the sequels from my brain.

          • >>>Wouldn't they just pump nutrients in that way

            I really wish people would THINK before they post. No sun == no plants == no nutrients to consume.

            Remember what happened to the dinosaurs when their sun was blotted out? That's what would happen to humans. Even if the machines fed 2 dead corpses per year to keep alive 1 human alive, the race would be almost extinct within a decade.

            A 6 billion population would have decreased to less than a million in ten years.

            • by BobMcD (601576)

              I really wish people would THINK before they post.

              You'd do well to do the same.

              No sun == no plants == no nutrients to consume. Remember what happened to the dinosaurs when their sun was blotted out?

              You do, of course, realize that this happened to 'humans' as well at that exact same time, do you not? You're not a creationist, I don't think, because you're making dinosaur arguments. So if it killed ALL LIFE on earth, do we assume that the whole primordial-ooze thing just started from scratch?

              No. We don't. We know that 'no sun' wasn't what happened. Only 'little sun', and anyone who studies even a tiny bit of biology understands that some forms of life need more of it th

              • >>>>>No sun == no plants == no nutrients to consume. Remember what happened to the dinosaurs when their sun was blotted out?
                >>
                >>You do, of course, realize that this happened to 'humans' as well at that exact same time, do you not?

                Amazing. Absolutely amazing. I didn't think it possible for someone to be that dumb. *Humans didn't exist in the time of dinosaurs.* The only things that survived were little mouse-like mammals and dinosaurs (which eventually birds). Anything as big

                • by BobMcD (601576)

                  Amazing. Absolutely amazing. I didn't think it possible for someone to be that dumb. *Humans didn't exist in the time of dinosaurs.* The only things that survived were little mouse-like mammals and dinosaurs (which eventually birds). Anything as big as a human being starved due to lack of sun, and lack of food.

                  So you're purporting an evolutionary path between mice and hominids? What's your source?

                  Besides, 'as big as a modern human' is irrelevant, and if you're going to call me dumb you ought to at least acknowledge that.

          • >>>What you seem to have done is attempted to claim that they ignored the fact altogether

            No actually I was saying the the world of the Matrix has about the same chances of happening, in real life, as Harry Potter. i.e. Matrix doesn't deserve to carry the label "science fiction"

            • by BobMcD (601576)

              >>>What you seem to have done is attempted to claim that they ignored the fact altogether

              No actually I was saying the the world of the Matrix has about the same chances of happening, in real life, as Harry Potter. i.e. Matrix doesn't deserve to carry the label "science fiction"

              Okay... But then nothing else does, either, and the label no longer has any use. It isn't as if Star Trek is any more or less accurate.

              • >>>But then nothing else does, either,

                Actually there are lots of stories that could carry the name Science fiction, because they could exist in the real world. Like Robert Heinlein's "The Roads Must Roll" about a future where people travel on giant escalators instead of in cars.

                The movie "A Boy and His Dog" by Harlan Ellison was also firmly rooted in reality, and could happen (someday).

                Star Trek? Star Wars? No. Pure fantasy. Which is fine if you like fantasy but it no more deserves the label "

        • I always thought that was weird myself. I came to the conclusion that it was a Hollywood dumbing down of whatever concept the book might have used. (The Matrix is based off of a short story or book, right?) My assumption is that in the real story, the Matrix was actually using human brains and imagination as computing power, not electrical power.
          • >>>using human brains and imagination as computing power

            Yeah because brains don't need to be fed. Oh wait. Yes, they do. The problem still remains of how to keep the human brains alive when there's no sun & no plants to feed them.

            BTW I never knew there was a Matrix short story?

            • The problem still remains of how to keep the human brains alive when there's no sun & no plants to feed them.

              Sun, no. Plants, maybe. Basically, you'd have giant nuclear powered vats where yeasts, algae, bacteria, plankton, etc are grown and pumped into the feeding tubes.

              BTW I never knew there was a Matrix short story

              Since the idea of Hollywood actually originating a decent story is preposterous, I came to the conclusion that they based the movie on a short story like they have for so many othe
              • >>>Basically, you'd have giant nuclear powered vats where yeasts, algae, bacteria, plankton, etc are grown

                Possibly but then that means the machines don't need humans. They can just use the nuclear electricity directly. And there's probably tons of coal and natural gas plants generating electricity too.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by SnarfQuest (469614)

      Someone needs to tell DARPA that is was just a movie. Not real. Now, take the blue pill.

  • Simple (Score:3, Informative)

    by 0racle (667029) on Friday July 16, 2010 @10:17AM (#32925768)

    the challenge is to harvest adequate amounts of power from the body and then efficiently direct it to the device that needs it

    You combine it with a form of fusionm duh.

  • Are we going to build it... or already part of it? Which pill to take?

    • by JWSmythe (446288)

          Take all of them. Some will give you wild hallucinations about an impossible future and extreme paranoia. Some will make you passive and very compliant to the reality you are in. What could possibly go wrong with that combination?

          [/me takes a fist full from the pill jar]

  • That Seiko watch I had about 10 years ago must have been from the future since it was able to power itself from a human battery. So far, no sign of them taking over the world either.

  • Question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xednieht (1117791) on Friday July 16, 2010 @10:22AM (#32925846) Homepage
    Why is mankind so obsessed with harvesting energy from the rarest sources in the universe? Why not start with the most abundant sources?
    • Re:Question (Score:5, Funny)

      by Ukab the Great (87152) on Friday July 16, 2010 @10:30AM (#32925940)

      Because doing that would make farting both a socially acceptable behavior and a viable industry.

    • Re:Question (Score:4, Funny)

      by thijsh (910751) on Friday July 16, 2010 @10:38AM (#32926048) Journal
      Because even without the malaria health-risks mosquito's are way to hard to milk...
    • Re:Question (Score:4, Funny)

      by Exitar (809068) on Friday July 16, 2010 @10:50AM (#32926168)

      Because harvesting energy from stupidity isn't a trivial task.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by meringuoid (568297)
      Think wearables. Batteries are heavy and inefficient and need periodic access to a power supply to recharge; that limits how long you can go on using your various toys, especially if you're way out in the wilderness on some mission or other. If you can draw power directly from the wearer's body, then you can greatly improve the usefulness of his electronic augmentations.
    • You know I always wondered how hard it would be to make a gadget that syphoned off blood, metabolised the sugar and then popped the blood back into the body.
      Instant slimming aid and heat pack! No-one need ever be overweight again.
      What could possibly go wrong?

    • At what point did you deduce that humans were rare energy sources?

      We've already started with abundant energy sources - Oil and Gas, and now Solar and other green projects are taking off. DARPA is always trying to do the next big thing - in this case, efficiency through a closed energy system.

      • by GooberToo (74388)

        At what point did you deduce that humans were rare energy sources?

        Probably at the point he realized there is an entire universe out there.

        • When he figures out how to get the energy out of Dark Matter or the Vaccumm of space - I'll jump right on board and ask why we're wasting our time.

          • by GooberToo (74388)

            You've never heard of solar, vast quantities of hydrogen, or even H3? Not to mention the polithera of different radiation everything is bathed in?

            I don't know if you're being snarkey or just can't see the forest for the trees. The reality is, we are completely surrounded by bountiful energy sources just waiting to be tapped. Given that this is about research, it is a legitimate question to ask why we are working so hard to research one of the least abundant and low quantity, sources of energy when so many o

            • But we do have solar power, and engines that run on hydrogen, etc etc.

              The idea is that harvesting energy has to be practical - and one of the ways to do that is to reduce the transportation costs. There are millions of asteroids and planets out there but their distance from where they would be used is too far to be practical. Same with anything floating out in space - its not practical to launch something up there to harvest it.

              As far as whats here on Earth: We have come up with ways to harvest solar energy

              • by GooberToo (74388)

                Left turn, meet you.

                The idea is that harvesting energy has to be practical

                This is research, which is clearly noted in the article and I even made purpose to specifically mention it. As such, pretty much everything in your post is off topic.

                As for solar and whatever, you're ignoring the fact that by in large, they are themselves not currently practical. And, they have been barely explored compared to their hypothetical limits.

                So once again, I must refer you back to the validity of the op's comment. Its a perfectly valid question as it pertains to research. With

    • Because the problem isn't generation, it's storage. And, as it turns out, everytime I want to use a battery powered device, there I am!

      Also, as poor a power source as a human is, I'm already wasting enough power to power some things.

    • Nobody has had much success using Hydrogen as a source of energy.

      Maybe try the next most abundant thing in the universe? That one certainly flows freely on Earth.

    • Because in out most immediate vicinity all the hydrogen is, shall we say, already in use. Alas, there's no hydrogen mines in them thar hills.
    • powered combat armor / ESP / KI based weapons.

      For years the GOV has had solders with EPS powers doing top secret stuff.

    • by Xtifr (1323)

      Actually, for a _human_, getting energy from a human isn't a half-bad idea. As someone once said, "wherever you go, there you are." You may not have plugs, you may not have batteries, but there's a very high chance that you have a you. On the other hand, the idea of planting other people and using them as batteries is so stupid that I was almost unable to keep watching the movie at that point.

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Friday July 16, 2010 @10:22AM (#32925852) Journal
    I'm a D Cell battery!
  • Do they have it yet?
  • anything that results in me learning Kung-Fu in 10 seconds might be worth it.

    Anyways, I hope a practical device for charging personal carry device while walking comes out of this. I would like to charge my phone while walking into work.

    Actually, even if it was a device that looked like a know brace, but generated power while walking would be ok place to start.

  • by peter303 (12292) on Friday July 16, 2010 @10:36AM (#32926020)
    Auditorium A/C designers know that - about one watt per kilogram resting, triple that when aerobic. Many portable electronics devices can run off a few percent of that energy. It would be nice to capture that energy mechanically, thermally, or chemically.
    • by nightfire-unique (253895) on Friday July 16, 2010 @10:55AM (#32926240)

      Auditorium A/C designers know that - about one watt per kilogram resting, triple that when aerobic. Many portable electronics devices can run off a few percent of that energy. It would be nice to capture that energy mechanically, thermally, or chemically.

      Sir, what exactly do you have in mind? :)

      Instruction manual told you to put the anode where?!

  • I wonder if any of these energy gathering methods work without eating more food to gather this energy...
    • The real question, is will the heat capture make you hotter or cooler?

      Will the "Motion Capture" just slow you down.

      In theory the waste heat is just going somwhere, and whether it evaporatoes off you or goes into a good capture system it might make you feel cooler.

      However, when you put an electrical load on an electrical system in your car, it calls on the Alternator, which drags down the available horsepower of the engine, fuel effienciency, etc. Even with frictionless bearings, the magnets are taking work

  • I hear the maintenance of the foot pumps can be a problem, but otherwise they're quite stylish.

  • Here's my solution (Score:4, Interesting)

    by david.emery (127135) on Friday July 16, 2010 @10:44AM (#32926106)

    If you want (a) power; (b) biometric identification; (c) biological status/health monitoring, consider the Rectal Thermocouple... This will normally generate substantial additional power in combat as an added benefit. :-)

  • by srealm (157581) <prez@g o t h . n et> on Friday July 16, 2010 @10:44AM (#32926110) Homepage

    OK, so humans become mobile power sources.

    I really don't want to see a guy on the side of the road with wires shoved up his arse trying to jump his car to start because his battery is dead.
    *clench* "Try it now!"

    That said, I guess the BDSM scene can now do something useful after attaching the alligator clamps to their nipples.

  • If they can't get us to fission spontaneously, i'm not at all impressed.
  • ... is a way of using chemical energy supplied by the body to generate electricity. And to make it a bit more challenging, harnessing this energy must not harm the body in question.

    A patent on that would be a license to print money.

  • Someone send these people a copy of The Matrix please. Include a nicely worded letter telling them to pay attention to the subplots....
  • Aren't soldiers already complaining about the weight of all of the junk they have to carry? Devices that take away their mechanical energy, or reduce the temperature difference between them and the surrounding environment, seem like a good way of making things harder.

    Maybe they won't have to carry all of the extra batteries, which will help. But power-generating shoes are inherently mushy and feel like running through mud, as is all of the other ways of generating power from human movement. It's not free

    • by david.emery (127135) on Friday July 16, 2010 @11:58AM (#32927136)

      Maybe they won't have to carry all of the extra batteries, which will help.

      Seriously*, you've hit a significant advantage. The normal 'basic load' of batteries is 30 days, from what I remember, and carrying those batteries around, particularly in Ranger/light infantry/Special Ops units is a tremendous drag. Whatever technique gets used, though, has to account for the fact that light infantry soldiers spend a lot of time being still (because what moves can be seen, and what can be seen will be shot...), so either you need some technique to store the power or you need something that can generate some amount of power when the soldier is not moving.

      * for humor on this topic, see my other post ;-)

  • kid stuff (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Goldsmith (561202) on Friday July 16, 2010 @11:28AM (#32926670)

    If these guys were serious about powering implants, they'd be using ATP or glucose. Heat and vibrations are nice, but a few more steps down the thermodynamic pipeline.

    Plus, the good piezoelectrics are not exactly made of bio-friendly metals.

  • Is that evolution has selected for a very efficient biological machine. If you are going to harness energy from movement, then you're going to require additional energy, in for the form of biological consumables, which have to be stored, transported an prepared. By extracting energy from the organism, you have to make the assertion that the organism can obtain its own fuel easier than you can. At 100w/sqm, and efficiency rates of 14%, You're looking at 3.5w per backpack of solar collection. Can your body o

  • by PPH (736903) on Friday July 16, 2010 @11:53AM (#32927078)
    Some men are AAA, some are lantern batteries.
  • We used to have self winding watches now they want self winding soldiers. Next they will want land mines that gather solar energy and store it in such a way that a powerful explosion takes place over and over again.

  • TANSTAAFL (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sabt-pestnu (967671) on Friday July 16, 2010 @02:02PM (#32929040)

    ...There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

    Energy taken out of the system has to come from somewhere. Some energy, sure, can be "harvested" without effort on part of the human host - temperature differences, compression energy while walking, the sort of thing that can't be avoided.

    Any power generation on a significant scale, though, will cause the person generating it effort. Like, say, a bicycle generator, or winding up an alarm clock. Even something passive, like putting an induction generator (think: "shake powered flashlight") on your belt will add to the weight you carry, the inertia you have to overcome. More effort on your part.

Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurence of the improbable. - H. L. Mencken

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