Assistive technology of the future – Mind controlled robotic arm

Mind controlled robotic arm is something we would imagine to be assistive technology of the future, but is being researched as you are reading this. Researchers at the University of Minnesota have made a huge breakthrough that enables people with paralysis control a robotic arm using their minds.

The study is published in Scientific Reports, a Nature journal. Bin He from the University of Minnesota who is leading the study had this to say:

“This is the first time in the world that people can operate a robotic arm to reach and grasp objects in a complex 3D environment using only their thoughts without a brain implant. Just by imagining moving their arms, they were able to move the robotic arm”

Electroencephalography is a noninvasive technique which is a brain based computer interface. This records weak electrical activity of the subjects brain through assistive technology of the future such as EEG cap fitted with 64 electrodes. This device converts thoughts into action through advanced signal processing and machine learning.

Eight case studies partaking in the experiment were the EEG cap. They used their imagination and soon started moving thr robotic arm. First they learnt how to control a virtual cursor on computer screen, then they learnt to control robotic arm to grab objects on table. They were eventually able to grasp random objects from a three layer shelf by thinking the moves.

Mr He concluded:

“This is exciting as all subjects accomplished the tasks using a completely noninvasive technique. We see a big potential for this research to help people who are paralyzed or have neurodegenerative diseases to become more independent without a need for surgical implants”

He is optimistic about assistive technology of the future and will further develop this brain computer interface, so that a prosthetic limb attached to a person with paralysis can be examined.

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