1.15.2008

A Robot With Monkey Brains

Pretty cool experiment with the long term goal of providing paralyzed people an exoskeleton that can move and be manipulated by thought. As the New York Times reports:

On Thursday, the 12-pound, 32-inch monkey made a 200-pound, 5-foot
humanoid robot walk on a treadmill using only her brain activity. She was in North Carolina, and the robot was in Japan.It
was the first time that brain signals had been used to make a robot
walk, said Dr. Miguel A. L. Nicolelis, a neuroscientist at Duke University whose laboratory designed and carried out the experiment. In
2003, Dr. Nicolelis’s team proved that monkeys could use their thoughts
alone to control a robotic arm for reaching and grasping.These
experiments, Dr. Nicolelis said, are the first steps toward a brain
machine interface that might permit paralyzed people to walk by
directing devices with their thoughts. Electrodes in the person’s brain
would send signals to a device worn on the hip, like a cell phone or
pager, that would relay those signals to a pair of braces, a kind of
external skeleton, worn on the legs. “When that person thinks about walking,” he said, “walking happens.”

Extending the research, patients with paralyzed limbs should be able to have implanted electrodes in their brains that move their arm just by thinking and activating an exoskeleton.
“They should be able to move the arm with their thoughts,” he said. “This is science fiction coming to life.”



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