Scots scientists unveil 'spray-on' computer

SCOTTISH scientists have developed a computer the size of a matchstick head, thousands of which can be sprayed onto patients to give a comprehensive analysis of their condition.

Speckled computing - some of the most advanced computing technology in the world - is currently being researched and developed by a group of Scottish experts.

The individual appliances, or 'specks', will form networks that can be programmed like ordinary computers.

Spraying them directly onto a person creates the ability to carry out different tests at the same time, for example muscle movement and pulse rate. This allows a complete picture of the patient's condition to be built up quickly.

The computing innovation, being developed by scientists at Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews and Strathclyde universities, will be displayed at the Edinburgh International Science Festival next Friday as part of a talk by Damal Arvind, leading speckled computing professor and director of the Scottish consortium.

Arvind said: "This is the new class of computing: devices which can sense and process the data they receive. They also have a radio so they can network and there's a battery in there as well, so they are entirely self-powered.

"You can do lots of interesting things with this technology. We are seeing this kind of technology in the Nintendo Wii and this is a very, very primitive form of what we will be demonstrating on Friday."

As part of the science festival event Arvind will show larger prototypes of the specks and how they work through a video link-up. He hopes to demonstrate how everyday objects can be 'speckled', paving the way for the technology to be used in anything from developing healthcare to animation or intelligent toys for children.

"This talk will stop people from thinking about computers simply in terms of laptops and desktops in the home," said Arvind.

Plans for a new centre for speckled computing in Scotland are in the pipeline - all the more reason for festival goers to be enthusiastic, Arvind believes. "This is something that is happening not very far away from them," he said. "We have arts festivals in Edinburgh getting lots of exposure, so now it's time people got excited about science."

Arvind will be speaking at the National Museum of Scotland at 6pm on Friday.

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