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Robots that read minds

A brain-machine interface allows paralyzed people to gain their independence back.

Most of us are waiting for robots to come and make our lives easier. But for some people, the robotic revolution means so much more. For example, “New Scientist” magazine has reported, "A partially paralyzed man who had been unable to use his fingers for about 30 years was able to feed himself dessert more easily using his mind and some smart robotic hands.”

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland were able to read and decode the patient's brainwaves and then translate them into movement instructions for a pair of robotic arms. Using his mind alone, the patient was able to get the arms to cut his dessert for him and then deliver it to his mouth using a knife and fork.

This was done with a “shared-control approach,” meaning the robotic limbs knew how to perform the different tasks, and the patient only had to guide the arms through the process. As brain-Machine interfaces get better and more sophisticated, we could expect to see more people regain their independence with the help of robots.



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