The Human Pickle

Remember that science experiment you did in elementary school where you plugged a pickle into a power source and turned it into a light bulb? Sure you do.

Microsoft has gone one step further. In the future, the pickle will be you:

Microsoft has been awarded a patent for turning your skin into a power conduit and data bus, and which describes a novel idea for a keyboard that should have most household pets running scared.

Patent number 6,754,472 describes a method of transmitting power and data to devices worn on the body, and for communication of data between those devices. ...

"As a result of carrying multiple portable electronic devices, there is often a significant amount of redundancy in terms of input/output devices included in the portable devices used by a single person," says the filing. "For example, a watch, pager, PDA and radio may all include a speaker."

To reduce the redundancy of input/output devices, Microsoft's patent proposes a personal area network that allows a single data input or output device to be used by multiple portable devices. ...

In its filing, which was published on Tuesday, Microsoft says its work addresses wearable devices that are too small to have any kind of interface or even a battery, such as earrings. Its solution uses pulsed AC or DC signals to power the devices -- a 100Hz signal could be used to power one device while a 150Hz signal could be used to power another, said the company, and data signals can be modulated on top of these power signals.

Furthermore, said Microsoft, the physical resistance offered by the human body could be used to create a virtual keyboard on a patch of skin. And just to make sure it has covered all its bases, the filing concludes with a note that could see the toy poodle haircut catching on: "It will be apparent," it says, "that the body may be that of a wide variety of living animals and need not be limited to being a body of a human being."

[Thanks to my friend Scott for the link]

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Just another sign of how

Just another sign of how broken the US patent system is. We were doing this stuff at the MIT Media Lab back in '97. I probably still have the hardware lying around here somewhere. Prior art means nothing to these monopoly-mongers.

How a libertarian can support the patent system -- nothing but government-granted monopolies, really -- baffles me. It's just a particularly clever method for a company, by means of the state, to steal from all of the rest of us the right to build thing. Just another part of the corporatist state; take away rights from the citizenry and grant them exclusively to corporations. About as anti-freedom as you can get.