The best use for 3D bioprinting? Reconstructing Van Gogh’s severed ear, obviously

Van Gogh ear Center for Art and Media

The stuff that people are 3D printing these days just keeps getting crazier. One day it’s researchers printing a working speaker, and the next day you hear about somebody who’s figured out a way to print fruit. It’s absolutely nuts, but just when you think 3D printing has reached peak weirdness, something like this pops up:

A Dutch artist by the name of Diemut Strebe has apparently joined forces with a team of scientists to print a true-to-life reconstruction of Vincent Van Gogh’s severed ear. And it’s not just some half-baked plastic rendering either. Thanks to a sophisticated 3D bioprinter and some meticulous DNA research, the ear is printed with living human cells taken from Liewe Van Gogh, the great-grandson of Vincent’s brother Theo, who happens to share about 1/16th of the same genes as the famed 19th century painter. 

So, technically speaking, this representation isn’t the exact same ear that Van Gogh chopped off himself and delivered to a brothel back in 1888 — but it’s pretty damn close. Originally, the plan was to use Van Gogh’s actual DNA, extracted from an envelope that he supposedly licked back in the 19th century. But after testing the envelope, the DNA turned out to be somebody else’s, so Strebe was forced to climb down the family tree and find the painter’s nearest living relative.

The crazy thing is, because it’s grown from living human cells, the ear is technically alive. And as if that wasn’t weird enough, thanks to the help of embedded microphones that are linked up to a computer, it can actually hear, too. Visitors to the The Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany —where the ear is currently on display— can speak into the reformed appendage and have their words understood.

“You can talk to the ear. The input sound is processed by a computer using software that converts it to simulate nerve impulses in real time. The speaker remains in soliloquy. The crackling sound that is produced is used to outline absence instead of presence.” explains the museum.

The piece is on display in Germany until July 6th, and will be coming to New York in spring 2015.

Emerging Tech

Researchers discover a way to make 3D printing 100 times faster using light

Researchers at the University of Michigan have invented a new method of 3D printing which is up to 100 times faster than conventional 3D-printing processes. Here's how it works and why it could prove a game-changer for 3D printing.
Virtual Reality

Think virtual reality is just for games? These awesome apps will change your mind

Virtual reality isn't all about gaming. Swim with turtles, paint in 3D, and immerse yourself in some unique experiences the platform has to offer with our curated list of the best VR apps.
Emerging Tech

The best 3D printers for 2019

On the hunt for a new 3D printer? We've got your back. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned veteran, this list of the best 3D printers has what you're looking for.
Gaming

Who needs a Switch? These 25 games prove there's fun to be found on 3DS

The 3DS is home to a large library, including some of the greatest games Nintendo has ever published. We've compiled this list of some of the best Nintendo 3DS games currently available.
Emerging Tech

Lasers and bovine breathalyzer help determine how much methane cows produce

Cow farts and belches don't sound like catastrophic threats, but they contribute to the massive amounts of methane in the atmosphere. Recently, scientists set out to establish the numbers.
Emerging Tech

Why wait? Here are some CES 2019 gadgets you can buy right now

Companies come to CES to wow us with their cutting edge technology, but only a few products are slated to hit the market right away. Here is our list of the best CES 2019 tech you can buy right now.
Emerging Tech

Yamaha’s new app lets you tune your motorcycle with a smartphone

It used to be that if you wanted to tune your motorcycle’s engine and tweak its performance, you needed specialized tools and even more specialized knowledge. Yamaha’s new Power Tuner app changes that.
Emerging Tech

Drones: New rules could soon allow flights over people and at night

With commercial operators in mind, the U.S. government is looking to loosen restrictions on drone flights with a set of proposals that would allow the machines greater freedom to fly over populated areas and also at night.
Emerging Tech

Short film celebrates New Yorker’s amazing robot costumes

New York City resident Peter Kokis creates stunning robot costumes out of household trash. His designs are huge, heavy, and extremely intricate, and never fail to turn heads when he's out and about.
Emerging Tech

In a first for humankind, China is growing plants on the moon

Having recently landed a probe on the far side of the moon, China announced that it managed to grow the first plant on the moon, too. Here's why that matters for deep space travel.
Emerging Tech

Ford’s sweaty robot bottom can simulate 10 years of seat use in mere days

Ford has developed 'Robutt,' a sweaty robot bottom that's designed to simulate the effects of having a pair of human buttocks sitting on its car seats for thousands of hours. Check it out.
Emerging Tech

CES 2019 recap: All the trends, products, and gadgets you missed

CES 2019 didn’t just give us a taste of the future, it offered a five-course meal. From 8K and Micro LED televisions to smart toilets, the show delivered with all the amazing gadgetry you could ask for. Here’s a look at all the big…
Emerging Tech

Want to know which drones are flying near you? There’s an app for that

Want to know what that mysterious drone buzzing over your head is up to? A new system developed by AirMap, Google Wing, and Kittyhawk.io could soon tell you -- via a map on your phone.
Emerging Tech

A Japanese hotel fires half its robot staff for being bad at their jobs

Japan’s oddball Henn na Hotel has fired half of its 243 robot staff. The reason? Because these labor-saving machines turned out to be causing way more problems than they were solving.