SciTech Now Episode 206

In this episode of SciTech Now, some oil companies are cutting back on their operations and hoping to reduce waste in the process; Springboard Enterprises CEO Kay Koplovitz discusses supporting women in business; we go inside the Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, where staff target the core cause of autism and provide therapy and support for those on the spectrum; and the Financial Times explores how the worlds of biology and robotics are coming together and how bionics is now being applied in healthcare.

TRANSCRIPT

♪♪

COMING UP... ADVANCES IN AUTISM RESEARCH.

WE WANT TO TARGET THE CORE CAUSES OF THE DISORDER.

AGAIN, WE SORT OF VIEW IT AS SOMETHING LIKE A RHYTHM DISORDER IN THE NEURONS.

WE KNOW WE CAN CHANGE RHYTHMS IN HEARTS.

HARNESSING THE POWER OF WOMEN INNOVATORS.

WOMEN CAN REALLY SCALE BUSINESSES AND BUILD GREAT SUSTAINABLE COMPANIES, AND THAT'S WHY WE STARTED SPRINGBOARD, TO IDENTIFY WOMEN LEADING THESE BUSINESSES AND HELPING THEM REALLY ACCELERATE THE GROWTH OF THEIR COMPANIES.

WHAT'S GOOD FOR BUSINESS MIGHT ALSO BE GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT.

'CAUSE WE'RE TAKING A STREAM THAT WOULD NORMALLY BE BURNED OR INCINERATED OR LET GO INTO THE AIR, AND CONVERTING THAT INTO REVENUE, SO, IN EFFECT, WE'RE ALLOWING PRODUCERS TO DO MORE WITH LESS.

AND THE COLLISION OF BIOLOGY AND ROBOTS.

I'VE SEEN WHEELCHAIR USERS BEING TOLD BY THEIR MATES WHO THEY'D KNOWN FOR 20 YEARS, 'I HAD NO IDEA YOU WERE SO TALL.'

SO, WE'VE DONE THE TECHNOLOGY-PUSH PART OF IT.

THE ROBOTIC TECHNOLOGY HAS NOW BEEN INVENTED TO REPLICATE THE HUMAN GAIT AND ALL THE TREMENDOUS COMPLEXITY THAT THERE IS IN THE HUMAN GAIT.

IT'S ALL AHEAD.

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM IS MADE POSSIBLE BY THE CORPORATION FOR PUBLIC BROADCASTING, LEWIS B. AND LOUISE HIRSCHFELD CULLMAN, SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, AND CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE PARTICIPATING STATIONS.

HELLO.

I'M HARI SREENIVASAN.

WELCOME TO OUR WEEKLY PROGRAM, BRINGING YOU THE LATEST BREAKTHROUGHS IN SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND INNOVATION.

LET'S GET STARTED.

DURING THE FRACKING-INDUCED OIL BOOM, U.S. OIL PRODUCTION HAS SKYROCKETED.

NOW SOME OIL COMPANIES ARE CUTTING BACK ON THEIR OPERATIONS AND HOPING TO REDUCE WASTE IN THE PROCESS.

HERE'S THE STORY.

A YEAR AGO, IN THE MIDST OF THE OIL BOOM, COMPANIES WEREN'T WORRIED ABOUT WASTE.

WHILE THEY WERE GETTING A LOT OF OIL... A LOT OF NATURAL GAS CAME TO THE SURFACE, TOO.

THAT GAS COULD BE SOLD, BUT MANY PRODUCERS JUST GOT RID OF IT, PUMPING MORE POLLUTION INTO THE ATMOSPHERE.

TO COLORADO ENGINEER HANS MUELLER, THAT SEEMED LIKE A WASTE.

WHEREVER THERE'S A FLARE THAT IS BURNING GAS AND THAT GAS ISN'T BEING USED FOR ANYTHING ELSE, TO ME IT JUST SEEMS LIKE AN OPPORTUNITY FOR US TO COME IN AND INCREASE THE EFFICIENCY OF THE ENTIRE OPERATION AND ESSENTIALLY USING EVERY PART OF THE BUFFALO.

SO, HE CREATED EcoVapor RECOVERY SYSTEMS, WHICH TAKES THE GAS AND MAKES IT READY FOR SALE.

SO, WHAT WE'RE TRYING TO DO HERE IS CAPTURE ANY OF THE GAS AND COMPRESS IT, RUN IT THROUGH OUR REACTORS TO REMOVE ANY OXYGEN, AND THEN PUMP IT DOWN THE SALES LINE.

THIS IS PROBABLY WHAT'S MOST UNIQUE TO OUR PRODUCT RIGHT HERE, IS THIS HEAT EXCHANGER THAT TAKES ALL OF THE HEAT FROM THE ENGINE EXHAUST GAS, PUTS IT INTO THE RECOVERED STREAM, SO THAT BY THE TIME WE GET TO OUR CATALYTIC REACTOR, EVERYTHING'S HOT ENOUGH TO BURN OFF ANY OXYGEN.

IT'S NOT JUST GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, HE SAYS.

IT'S GOOD FOR BUSINESS.

'CAUSE WE'RE TAKING A STREAM THAT WOULD NORMALLY BE BURNED OR INCINERATED OR LET GO INTO THE AIR, AND CONVERTING THAT INTO REVENUE, SO, IN EFFECT, WE'RE ALLOWING PRODUCERS TO DO MORE WITH LESS.

WITH OIL AT LESS THAN $50 A BARREL, OIL PRODUCERS ARE LOOKING TO GET MORE OUT OF EACH WELL AND TO REDUCE WASTE IN THE PROCESS.

AT A BIG ENERGY CONFERENCE IN HOUSTON THIS YEAR, M.I.T. ENERGY INITIATIVE'S BOB ARMSTRONG SPOKE UP FOR TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS.

I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT TO KEEP IN MIND THAT THE ENERGY BUSINESS IS A TECHNOLOGY-DRIVEN INDUSTRY.

LiquiGlide IS A TRULY REVOLUTIONARY PRODUCT.

LIKE LiquiGlide, AN M.I.T.

LAB PRODUCT PRESENTED AT THE CONFERENCE, THAT PROMISES TO KEEP OIL FROM STICKING TO EQUIPMENT.

AND GLORI ENERGY IN HOUSTON IS LOOKING FOR MORE MICROSCOPIC SOLUTIONS.

THIS IS A MAGNIFIED IMAGE OF MICROBIAL CELLS GROWING ON OIL.

GLORI ENERGY STUDIES THE MICROBES LIVING IN OIL WELLS.

AND THEN HERE WE HAVE THE VALVE SYSTEM THAT ALLOWS US TO PUT OUR NUTRIENT MIXTURE INTO INDIVIDUAL WELLS WITHIN THE FIELD.

THEY CREATED A NUTRIENT SYSTEM TO ENCOURAGE THE BACTERIA TO GROW, PUSHING MORE OIL OUT OF THE WELL.

GLORI ENERGY SAYS THAT CAN DOUBLE, EVEN TRIPLE OIL PRODUCTION.

BUT CEO STUART PAGE SAYS THE PLUNGE IN OIL PRICES HASN'T HELPED.

THE FIRST REACTION FROM OIL COMPANIES THAT WE'VE SEEN IS TO BE VERY CAUTIOUS.

SO, IT'S AN ISSUE OF 'LET'S STOP SPENDING ON EVERYTHING THAT WE CAN.'

DISCRETIONARY SPEND GOES AS LOW AS POSSIBLE.

HE'S HOPEFUL THAT IF COMPANIES START EMBRACING NEW TECHNOLOGY, IT WILL SAVE CONSUMERS IN THE END.

THE SWING PRODUCER COST OF OIL WILL BE LOWER.

AND THAT COULD BE GREAT FOR THE CONSUMER.

THAT COULD MEAN THAT $100 OIL IS A THING OF THE PAST, PERHAPS $80 OIL IS A THING OF THE PAST.

PERHAPS, YOU KNOW, THE NEW NORM IS $50, $60, $60, $70 -- IS A LOWER NUMBER.

TRANSLATES TO LOWER PRICE AT THE PUMP.

WHILE THERE ARE LOTS OF GREAT IDEAS OUT THERE, ANALYST CARL LARRY SAYS THE OIL INDUSTRY ISN'T READY FOR BIG CHANGES AND THEY NEED A REAL TECH LEADER.

WE DON'T HAVE AN ELON MUSK OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT, AND THE PRICE DOESN'T ENCOURAGE THAT RIGHT NOW.

YOU KNOW. THE OIL INDUSTRY, SINCE IT'S SUCH A SET-IN-ITS-WAYS INDUSTRY, WE TEND TO JUST TRY AND STAY THE PATH.

BUT THE ONES WHO TAKE THE CHANCES ARE THE SMALL BUSINESSES, THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE THE GUTS TO TAKE IT OUT AND TRY SOMETHING NEW.

LIKE OTHER INDUSTRIES, CHANGE AND INNOVATION FOR THE OIL AND GAS INDUSTRY MAY INCREASINGLY COME FROM THE SMALL GUYS.

♪♪

WOMEN AND THEIR INNOVATIONS ARE TAKING THE WORLD BY STORM.

HERE TO TELL US HOW IS KAY KOPLOVITZ, THE CEO OF SPRINGBOARD ENTERPRISES, A PLATFORM THAT SUPPORTS EMERGING GROWTH BUSINESSES LED BY WOMEN.

SO, FIRST OF ALL, WHAT IS SPRINGBOARD?

SPRINGBOARD IS AN ACCELERATOR FOR WOMEN-LED COMPANIES IN TECHNOLOGY AND LIFE SCIENCES.

WE'VE BEEN AT IT FOR 15 YEARS, SO WE HAVE A HUGE PORTFOLIO OF COMPANIES, ALMOST 600.

WHAT KIND OF COMPANIES DO YOU WORK WITH?

YOU KNOW, iROBOT, CONSTANT CONTACT, ZIPCAR, MINUTE CLINIC.

THESE ARE ALL COMPANIES THAT HAVE COME THROUGH SPRINGBOARD.

AND BEEN LED BY WOMEN.

AND LED BY WOMEN.

A LOT IN BIOTECH AND LIFE SCIENCES, ABOUT 1/3 OF THE PORTFOLIO IS IN THOSE TYPES OF COMPANIES.

AND 2/3 ARE IN TECHNOLOGY.

WHEN YOU STARTED THIS 15 YEARS AGO, WHAT WAS THE MARKET NEED?

WHY DID YOU SAY, 'YOU KNOW WHAT?

THERE NEEDS TO BE AN ACCELERATOR.

THERE NEEDS TO BE A NETWORK, A MENTORSHIP.'

WHY?

BECAUSE 15 YEARS AGO AND EARLIER THAN THAT, THERE WAS A LOT OF CAPITAL POURING OVER THE TRANSOM.

IN THE LATE '90s, $104 BILLION IN VENTURE CAPITAL.

1.7% BACKED WOMEN.

AND HAVING LAUNCHED AND FOUNDED USA NETWORK AND SYFY CHANNEL AND GROWN TO A MULTI-BILLION-DOLLAR BUSINESS MYSELF, I THINK THAT WOMEN CAN REALLY SCALE BUSINESSES AND BUILD GREAT SUSTAINABLE COMPANIES -- LOTS OF EMPLOYEES, HIGH-PAYING JOBS, CONTRIBUTING TO THE SOCIETY.

BUT 15 YEARS AGO, THEY WERE NOWHERE IN VENTURE CAPITAL, AND THAT'S WHY WE STARTED SPRINGBOARD ENTERPRISE -- WAS A NONPROFIT ACCELERATOR TO IDENTIFY WOMEN LEADING THESE BUSINESSES, TRAINING THEM TO RAISE CAPITAL, BRINGING THEM TO MARKET, PUTTING THEM TOGETHER WITH THE CAPITAL SOURCES, AND HELPING THEM REALLY ACCELERATE THE GROWTH OF THEIR COMPANIES.

ONE OF THE THINGS WE KNOW IS THAT PEOPLE INVEST IN THOSE WHO LOOK AND ACT LIKE THEM, RIGHT?

MM-HMM.

AND SO, IF YOU DON'T HAVE VENTURE CAPITALISTS THAT ARE ANY WOMEN AT ALL AT THE TABLE, THEY'RE MAYBE LESS LIKELY TO INVEST IN WOMEN COMPANIES OR FEMALE-LED COMPANIES?

THAT IS TRUE.

IT IS PRIMARILY A BOYS' CLUB.

EVEN TODAY, 95% OF VENTURE CAPITALISTS ARE MEN.

BUT WE DO HAVE EVIDENCE THAT SHOWS IF THERE'S EVEN ONE WOMAN ON THE INVESTING TEAM, THEY'RE 70% MORE LIKELY TO INVEST IN A WOMAN-LED COMPANY.

WOW.

AND OVER 400 VENTURE FUNDS HAVE INVESTED IN SPRINGBOARD COMPANIES, IN OUR ALUMNI COMPANIES, SO WE HAVE BROAD REACH IN THE MARKETPLACE.

BUT THIS IS STILL NOT ENOUGH FOR THE ENTIRE MARKET, SO WE'RE WORKING ON THAT AND TRAINING MORE WOMEN TO BE VENTURE CAPITALISTS, ACTUALLY.

YOU'VE TALKED ABOUT THE PIPELINE OF GETTING WOMEN INTO VENTURE CAPITAL, BUT HOW DO YOU GET MORE WOMEN INTO STEM CAREERS FROM THE SCIENCES IN HIGH SCHOOL AND COLLEGE ALL THE WAY THROUGH, RIGHT?

I MEAN, 'CAUSE EVENTUALLY, YOU WANT TO HARVEST THAT TALENT AND GET THEM TO BE THE MANAGERS, TOO, BUT THEY NEED TO BE THE SCIENTISTS, AS WELL.

YES, AND THERE ARE LOTS OF PROGRAMS AFOOT NOW ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

THERE'S GIRLS WHO CODE, BLACK GIRLS CODE.

BOYS & GIRLS CLUBS ARE HAVING TRAINING COURSES.

THERE ARE A NUMBER OF CORPORATIONS WHO ARE ACTUALLY SUPPORTING EARLY LEARNING OF CODING -- NOT THAT EVERYONE IS GONNA TURN OUT TO BE A CODER, BUT IT'S SORT OF THE LANGUAGE OF THE FUTURE.

YOU REALLY DO HAVE TO KNOW IT, AND GIRLS ARE ACTUALLY VERY GOOD AT CODING.

CODING IS CREATIVE.

IT'S REALLY STORYTELLING.

IT'S STORYTELLING IN A DIFFERENT LANGUAGE, AND PERSONALLY I FEEL THAT IT OUGHT TO BE A REQUIRED LANGUAGE IN GRADE SCHOOL.

EVERY INDUSTRY IS AFFECTED BY TECHNOLOGY TODAY, SO JUST TO GIVE YOU AN EXAMPLE, WE LAUNCHED LAST YEAR HERE WITH OUR PARTNER, THE PARTNERSHIP FOR NEW YORK CITY, FASHION TECH LAB.

WHY DID WE DO THAT?

BECAUSE THE RETAIL BUSINESSES WERE FALLING BEHIND THE CONSUMER DEMANDS.

AND SHE GOES TO A STORE, AND SHE WANTS ONLINE, IN-STORE MOBILE PAYMENTS.

THEY WANT EVERYTHING TO CONNECT.

THEY WANT DELIVERY TODAY, NOW.

'I'M GONNA WEAR THAT DRESS TONIGHT.

I NEED IT IN MY SIZE, MY COLOR.

PLEASE DELIVER IT BY 5:00.'

THE RETAILER HAS TO KEEP UP WITH ALL THESE DEMANDS.

3D PRINTING, NEW MANUFACTURING, WE'RE BRINGING BACK HERE TO NEW YORK CITY.

LOTS OF THINGS ARE HAPPENING, AND IT'S WOMEN WHO UNDERSTAND THAT CATEGORY OF BUSINESS, IN ADDITION TO ALL THE GREAT SCIENTISTS WE HAVE WHO ARE MICROBIOLOGISTS, WHO ARE INTO PHYSICS, INTO A LOT OF DIFFERENT OF THE SCIENCE DISCIPLINES TODAY, SO WOMEN ARE GONNA BE HEAVY CONTRIBUTORS -- ARE TODAY TO THE GROWTH OF OUR SOCIETY, BUT EVEN MORE IN THE FUTURE.

THAT'S WHY I THINK IT'S REALLY IMPORTANT FOR BOYS AND GIRLS AT A YOUNG AGE TO AT LEAST UNDERSTAND CODING, EVEN IF THEY AREN'T GONNA THEMSELVES BE CODERS.

WHATEVER THEY DECIDE TO GO IN, EVEN THE PERFORMING ARTS, TODAY REQUIRE KNOWLEDGE.

SO, HOW DO YOUNG WOMEN SEE THOSE WOMEN THAT ARE IN THESE LEADERSHIP POSITIONS?

BECAUSE WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE COVER OF MOST OF THESE BUSINESS MAGAZINES, IT'S STILL A GUY IN A PINSTRIPE SUIT THAT'S LOOKED AT AS THE CORPORATE RAIDER OR THE BIG-TIME CEO, WHEREAS HERE YOU ARE, FUNDING HUNDREDS OF COMPANIES, RIGHT?

IT'S LIKE, HOW DO WE MAKE SURE THAT A YOUNG WOMAN CAN SEE HER OWN REFLECTION AND SEE THAT POSSIBILITY FOR HERSELF?

I THINK THAT WE REALLY HAVE TO GET MORE OF THE SUCCESS STORIES IN THE PRESS, MORE OF THE VOICES.

I HAVE A BOOK OUT RIGHT NOW CALLED 'BEEN THERE, RUN THAT.'

45 WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS HAVE CONTRIBUTED THEIR KNOWLEDGE AND THEIR EXPERIENCE IN STARTING AND GROWING COMPANIES.

AND IT'S A GREAT TOOL KIT FOR ENTREPRENEURS, WANNABE ENTREPRENEURS, FIRST-TIME ENTREPRENEURS, EVEN SERIAL ENTREPRENEURS.

VERY ACTIONABLE ADVICE.

WE WANT MORE EXPRESSED OPINIONS ABOUT WOMEN AND HOW THEY'RE GROWING OUR BUSINESSES AND HOW WE'RE WORKING TOGETHER OUT IN THE PRESS, SO 'BEEN THERE, RUN THAT' IS ONE WAY WOMEN AND YOUNG WOMEN CAN REALLY BE ATTRACTED TO THOSE WHO HAVE SUCCEEDED.

ALL RIGHT. KAY KOPLOVITZ, THANKS SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

YOU'RE WELCOME.

THE CENTER FOR AUTISM & NEURODEVELOPMENTAL DISORDERS ACTS NOT ONLY AS A RESEARCH FACILITY, BUT ALSO AS A THERAPY CENTER.

SPECIALISTS ARE WORKING WITH CHILDREN TO GET DOWN TO THE NEUROLOGICAL FACTORS BEHIND AUTISM.

AND WITH THE HELP OF DRUG-THERAPY PROGRAMS AND A KIND GUIDING HAND, THEY'VE MADE HUGE STRIDES.

THE SHEER JOY OF A CHILD AT PLAY -- YOU WOULD NEVER KNOW BY LOOKING, BUT HE HAS AUTISM.

HE'S HERE FOR ONE OF HIS REGULAR SESSIONS AT THE CENTER FOR AUTISM & NEURODEVELOPMENTAL DISORDERS.

THE CENTER IS A PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN CHAPMAN UNIVERSITY, CHOC CHILDREN'S, U.C. IRVINE, AND FOUNDATIONAL SUPPORTERS.

IT'S A ONE-STOP SHOP WHERE PARENTS LIKE DANIELLE ALLISON CAN NOT ONLY GET THERAPY FOR HER SON, BUT SUPPORT ON EVERY LEVEL.

I'VE LEARNED HOW TO PARENT A CHILD ON THE SPECTRUM, WHICH IS NOT EASY.

I'VE LEARNED HOW TO BE AN ADVOCATE FOR MY CHILD'S TREATMENT.

I'VE LEARNED HOW TO BE AN ACTIVE PARTICIPANT AND COLLABORATE WITH MY SCHOOL DISTRICT IN ORDER TO COME OUT WITH THE BEST POSSIBLE INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATIONAL PLAN.

AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, MY SON IS HAPPIER.

PSYCHOLOGIST MICHELE OCHEN SAYS EARLY DIAGNOSIS IS JUST THE FIRST STEP OF MANY PROVIDED AT THE CENTER.

THE SECOND PART -- AND THIS IS WHERE THE REAL WORK BEGINS -- IS WHEN WE START THE INTERVENTIONS AND TO BE ABLE TO SAY, 'THESE ARE THE INTERVENTIONS THAT WE RECOMMEND, AND YOU CAN DO ALL OF THOSE RIGHT HERE, AND, IN FACT, LET ME GIVE YOU THIS INFORMATION ABOUT A PROGRAM WE HAVE HERE THAT CAN HELP CONNECT YOU WITH SCHOOL SERVICES.

AND YOU CAN COME BACK HERE.

WE HAVE PARENTING PRACTICES.'

AND IT'S A COMMUNITY RESOURCE WHERE THEY'VE ALREADY BEEN.

THEY'RE FAMILIAR WITH THE STAFF.

SO, IT'S A PLACE THAT THEY'RE COMFORTABLE WITH AND CAN DEVELOP A RELATIONSHIP WITH, SO I THINK IT'S AN INVALUABLE RESOURCE TO HAVE ALL OF THAT KIND OF IN ONE SETTING.

THE CENTER ALSO HAS SPECIALISTS WHO ACT AS LIAISONS BETWEEN PARENTS AND THE SCHOOLS.

CHILDREN SPEND 1/4 TO 1/3 OF THEIR DAY IN THE SCHOOL, AND MANY CHILDREN WITH AUTISM RECEIVE THE VAST MAJORITY OF THEIR THERAPEUTIC SERVICES AT THE SCHOOL.

SO, IT'S VITAL THAT THE CLINIC COLLABORATE WITH OUR EDUCATIONAL SYSTEMS.

WE BELIEVE IF THEY REALLY UNDERSTAND THE SYSTEM, THEY WILL BE MORE MEANINGFULLY INVOLVED, THEY WILL HAVE BETTER RELATIONSHIPS WITH THE SCHOOLS, THEY WILL UNDERSTAND THE QUALITY OF SERVICES THE SCHOOL IS OFFERING, AND THERE'LL BE BETTER OUTCOMES FOR THE CHILD.

THE CENTER IS ALSO PLAYING A MAJOR ROLE IN SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH, LOOKING AT THE CORE CAUSES OF AUTISM.

INSIDE THIS U.C. IRVINE LAB, RESEARCHERS ARE STUDYING AUTISM AT THE CELLULAR LEVEL.

LEAD RESEARCHER JOHN GARGUS IS SO ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT HIS WORK, HE TOOK NEARLY 10 MINUTES TO ANSWER OUR FIRST QUESTION.

SO, WE HAVE A COHORT OF PATIENTS THAT WE'VE BEEN FOLLOWING FOR A VERY LONG TIME.

BASICALLY, A VERY RICH DATABASE ON THESE VERY SPECIFIC SETS OF PATIENTS... LOOKING AT HOW ONE NERVE CELL TALKS TO ANOTHER NERVE CELL IN MODELS OF AUTISM... LET ME THEN JUMP WAY BACK TO THE BEGINNING... ONE THAT WE'RE VERY STRONGLY FOCUSED ON HERE AT THE CENTER HAS TO DO WITH HOW CELLS TALK TO ONE ANOTHER AT THE MOST FUNDAMENTAL LEVEL.

GARGUS AND HIS RESEARCHERS BELIEVE THAT AUTISM MAY BE LINKED TO A RHYTHM DISORDER IN COMMUNICATIONS WITH BRAIN CELLS, SO THEY HOPE TO DEVELOP DRUG THERAPIES THAT WOULD HELP CORRECT THE MISFIRES, MUCH LIKE AN ANTI-SEIZURE MEDICATION OR DRUGS THAT KEEP HEARTBEATS IN RHYTHM.

SO, WE'RE NOT LOOKING TO DO THINGS LIKE SEDATING SOMEBODY OR MAKING SOMEBODY LESS ANXIOUS.

WE WANT TO TARGET THE CORE CAUSES OF THE DISORDER.

AGAIN, WE SORT OF VIEW IT AS SOMETHING LIKE A RHYTHM DISORDER IN THE NEURONS.

WE KNOW WE CAN CHANGE RHYTHMS IN HEARTS.

WE CAN CHANGE RHYTHMS IN NEURONS IN SEIZURE DISORDERS.

SO, IT'S SOMETHING THAT, AGAIN, WE CAN'T SAY ALL THE STEPS THAT ARE INVOLVED, BUT IT SEEMS THAT THE TIME IS RIPE TO DO IT NOW.

DANIELLE ALLISON WOULD WELCOME A DRUG-THERAPY PROGRAM FOR HER SON, BUT FOR NOW, SHE KNOWS THE INTERVENTION AND SUPPORT THEY GET AT THE CENTER IS WORKING.

HE'S ABLE NOW TO HAVE FUN.

YOU KNOW, THE NEIGHBORHOOD KIDS WILL COME OVER, AND THEY'LL PLAY WITH HIS TOYS, AND HE'LL BE OKAY WITH THAT, AND THEY'LL PLAY WITH OTHER TOYS DIFFERENTLY, AND HE'LL BE FINE WITH THAT.

SO -- AND THE TANTRUMING HAS GREATLY REDUCED IN MAGNITUDE AND DURATION.

[ LAUGHTER ] SO, THAT'S BEEN HUGE FOR OUR WHOLE FAMILY.

FOR MOM LIZA KRASSNER, THE CENTER HAS BEEN HER LIFELINE FOR MORE THAN 10 YEARS.

HER SON SUFFERS SEVERE SOCIAL ANXIETY -- WASN'T HAPPY AT ALL TO SEE OUR CAMERAS.

KRASSNER APPLIED COPING MECHANISMS THAT SHE'S LEARNED AT THE CENTER TO EASE HER SON'S ANXIETY.

THESE DAYS, SHE SERVES AS A MENTOR FOR PARENTS WHO ARE JUST STARTING OUT ON THE LIFELONG JOURNEY THAT IS AUTISM.

IF I JUST HAVE TO GO OUT ON THE STREET OR TALK TO OTHER PARENTS AND LET THEM KNOW THERE ARE SOME THINGS THAT WE CAN DO, WHETHER I SEND THEM IN HERE, TALK TO SOMEBODY WHO'S FROM HERE, SIT DOWN, PULL THEM ASIDE, GIVE THEM MY CELLPHONE NUMBER, DO ALL THIS STUFF, I WILL DO IT.

THIS IS WHAT I'VE BEEN DOING ANYWAY.

THE CENTER HAS GIVEN ME A LOT OF HELP AND HOPE.

I THINK I SHOULD DO THE SAME.

♪♪

UP NEXT, WE EXPLORE HOW THE WORLDS OF BIOLOGY AND ROBOTICS ARE COMING TOGETHER AND HOW BIONICS IS NOW BEING APPLIED IN HEALTH CARE.

OUR PARTNER, THE FINANCIAL TIMES, HAS A REPORT.

♪♪

FROM DRIVERLESS CARS TO AUTOMATED VACUUM CLEANERS, WE HEAR A LOT ABOUT HOW ROBOTS ARE GOING TO TAKE OVER EVERYDAY TASKS.

THESE ODD-LOOKING CONTRAPTIONS IN A UNIVERSITY LAB COULD PROVIDE A CLUE ABOUT THE NEXT FRONTIER IN THE ROBOTIC REVOLUTION.

WHEN WE THINK OF MEDICAL SCIENCE, IT'S USUALLY TEST TUBES AND WHITE LAB COATS THAT COME TO MIND.

BUT HERE AT KING'S COLLEGE LONDON, RESEARCHERS ARE EXPLORING WAYS THAT ROBOTS CAN IMPROVE HUMAN HEALTH.

FROM BIONIC LIMBS TO IMPROVED MOBILITY TO SURGICAL DEVICES OF THE KIND BEING DEVELOPED HERE, THE WORLDS OF BIOLOGY AND ROBOTICS ARE COMING TOGETHER.

HIGH-TECH INSTRUMENTS AND PROBES ARE ALREADY A COMMON FEATURE OF THE HOSPITAL OPERATING THEATER, BUT MORE SOPHISTICATED DEVICES COULD EVENTUALLY ALLOW SURGEONS TO CARRY OUT PROCEDURES WITH GREATER PRECISION THAN IS POSSIBLE TODAY.

HERE IN THE CENTER FOR ROBOTICS RESEARCH, WE ARE TAKING INSPIRATION FROM THE OCTOPUS AND TRY TO CREATE SOFT ROBOTIC DEVICES THAT CAN BE USED FOR MINIMALLY INVASIVE SURGERY, SO HERE WE ARE DEVELOPING THESE DEVICES, AND YOU CAN SEE THE SYSTEM MOVING HERE IN THE BACKGROUND, SO IT IS A SOFT ROBOT, AND THAT MAKES A RADICAL STEP FROM WHAT WE HAVE SEEN IN THE PAST.

WE ARE MOVING AWAY FROM THE USUAL APPROACH OF RIGID ROBOT ARMS, BUT NOT ONLY SOFT -- CAN BE STIFFENED IF REQUIRED, VERY MUCH LIKE THE BIOLOGICAL INSPIRATION WE TAKE FROM THE OCTOPUS.

SENSORS ARE BEING DEVELOPED THAT WILL HELP GUIDE SURGEONS TO CANCEROUS TISSUE, AND SOME PEOPLE BELIEVE SUCH PROCEDURES COULD ONE DAY BECOME ALMOST ENTIRELY AUTOMATED.

SO, CREATE A ROBOTIC DEVICE THAT EFFECTIVELY WORKS ON THE PUSH OF A BUTTON.

MANY ISSUES, OF COURSE, THAT NEED TO BE RESOLVED BECAUSE THE INTELLIGENCE OF THE SURGEON IS REALLY REQUIRED TO MANAGE THE OPERATIONS AS THEY'RE DONE TODAY, SO THAT IS NOT JUST MOVING JOYSTICKS ABOUT, BUT ALSO MAKING DECISIONS ON WHERE TO CUT, WHERE TO MOVE TO WITH THE ROBOTIC DEVICE.

ROBOTIC SURGERY IS STILL IN ITS EARLY STAGES, AND COMMERCIALIZATION OF THESE DEVICES IS YEARS AWAY, BUT IN OTHER AREAS OF HEALTH CARE, THE BIONIC AGE HAS ALREADY ARRIVED.

...AND THEN ONCE I'M STANDING, IT'S EXTREMELY MANAGEABLE.

IT'S JUST A VERY SIMPLE CONTROL SETUP.

THIS IS A ROBOTIC WALKING DEVICE DEVELOPED BY A NEW ZEALAND COMPANY CALLED REX BIONICS.

IT ALLOWS PARAPLEGICS TO STAND UP AND MOVE ON THEIR OWN FEET.

WELL, IT'S ABSOLUTELY TRANSFORMATIONAL FOR WHEELCHAIR USERS.

THE SENSATION FOR THEM OF BEING ABLE TO GET UP TO THEIR FULL HEIGHT -- I'VE SEEN WHEELCHAIR USERS BEING TOLD BY THEIR MATES WHO THEY'D KNOWN FOR 20 YEARS, 'I HAD NO IDEA YOU WERE SO TALL.'

SECONDLY, THEY'RE ABLE TO RETURN TO WORK.

JARED, OUR ENGINEER IN OUR PLANT IN NEW ZEALAND, IS ABLE TO SPEND ALL DAY IN A REX AND DO WORK THAT WOULD NOT OTHERWISE BE POSSIBLE.

SO, WE'VE DONE THE TECHNOLOGY-PUSH PART OF IT.

THE ROBOTIC TECHNOLOGY HAS NOW BEEN INVENTED TO REPLICATE THE HUMAN GAIT AND ALL THE TREMENDOUS COMPLEXITY THAT THERE IS IN THE HUMAN GAIT.

BUT NOW WE ARE BEGINNING TO SEE THE MEDICAL BENEFITS.

THEY ARE AT HIGHER RISK OF CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE AND DIABETES, AND IF THEY CAN STAND AND BE MOBILIZED, IT IS VERY WELL DOCUMENTED THAT THESE PROBLEMS ARE SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCED.

THE COMPANY LISTED ON LONDON'S AIM STOCK MARKET LAST YEAR TO RAISE MONEY FOR AN INTERNATIONAL SALES PUSH.

THE £90,000 PRICE TAG WILL BE AN OBSTACLE FOR MANY, BUT REX IS AIMING TO GRADUALLY LOWER THE COST AS ECONOMIES OF SCALE KICK IN.

IT IS EXPENSIVE AT THE MOMENT.

THERE IS A LOT OF TECHNOLOGY IN THERE.

BUT, LIKE A LOT OF NASCENT TECHNOLOGY, THERE IS LOTS OF POTENTIAL TO BRING DOWN THE COST.

BUT FIRST AND FOREMOST, WE NEED TO GET PEOPLE TO ACCEPT AND UNDERSTAND AND EMBRACE THE TECHNOLOGY AND ITS VALUE.

A CHEAPER, MORE BASIC VERSION OF THIS TECHNOLOGY HAS BEEN DEVELOPED BY A CALIFORNIAN COMPANY CALLED AlterG.

ITS £13,000 BIONIC LEG IS USED TO AID REHABILITATION AFTER INJURIES OR STROKES.

OKAY. SO, PRESS 'GO,' AND YOU'RE READY TO STAND UP AND START WALKING.

OKAY.

[ WHIRRING ] WELL, THAT FEELS -- FEELS STRANGE.

IT TAKES SOME GETTING USED TO, RIGHT?

YEAH, BUT YOU'LL SOON WORK OUT YOUR OWN GAIT, SO... THE CONCEPT BEHIND THE BIONIC LEG WAS TO ACTUALLY LOOK AT A WAY OF ACTUALLY, WE COULD GIVE PEOPLE WITH WEAKER LIMBS EXTRA STRENGTH TO ALLOW THEM TO SIT AND STAND AND TO WALK NORMALLY.

SOME FUTUROLOGISTS ENVISAGE A DAY WHEN TECHNOLOGY SUCH AS THIS COULD EVEN BE USED BY ABLE-BODIED PEOPLE TO ENHANCE PHYSICAL CAPABILITY.

AT THE MOMENT, WE'RE AT A STAGE WHERE WE'RE LOOKING AT HOW WE ACTUALLY HELP PEOPLE TO AMBULATE WHERE THEY'VE HAD AN INJURY, BUT YOU CAN QUITE SEE HOW IN THE FUTURE, MAYBE THERE WILL BE OTHER MODELS THAT WOULD ACTUALLY ALLOW PEOPLE TO HAVE GREATER STRENGTH, GREATER ENDURANCE, AND THOSE KIND OF THINGS.

EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE WITH THE WAY TECHNOLOGY IS GOING.

THIS PIECE OF KIT IS A LONG WAY FROM THE DEVICES BEING DEVELOPED AT KING'S COLLEGE LONDON OR, INDEED, THE CYBORGS BELOVED OF SCIENCE FICTION WRITERS.

BUT IT SHOWS HOW BIONICS ARE ALREADY HAVING AN IMPACT ON HEALTH CARE.

AND THAT WILL ONLY INCREASE AS ROBOTS TAKE AN EVER-BIGGER ROLE IN HUMAN LIFE.

♪♪

AND THAT WRAPS IT UP FOR THIS TIME.

FOR MORE ON SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND INNOVATION, VISIT OUR WEBSITE, CHECK US OUT ON FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM, AND JOIN THE CONVERSATION ON TWITTER.

YOU CAN ALSO SUBSCRIBE TO OUR YouTube CHANNEL.

UNTIL NEXT TIME, I'M HARI SREENIVASAN.

THANKS FOR WATCHING.

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FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM IS MADE POSSIBLE BY THE CORPORATION FOR PUBLIC BROADCASTING, LEWIS B. AND LOUISE HIRSCHFELD CULLMAN, SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, AND CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE PARTICIPATING STATIONS.

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