Robotics have advanced to a level where today, we can interact with robots and control them through brain-machine interfaces. Most of these interfaces are still in their infancy. However, researchers at Pittsburgh University were stunned when a paralysed woman was able to control a robotic arm accurately, with her thoughts alone.
Jan is 51 years old and suffers from a degenerative disease which severely afflicted her spinal cord and eventually, she lost the ability to make use of her limbs. She has been a part of the research program to make use of robotic arms through thoughts alone.
Before Jan could start with her training sessions, the doctors had to implant tiny grids of electrodes just beneath the surface of her brain so that her nervous system can directly interact with the electrodes. This allows the neurons to directly register her thoughts.
Once Jan was hooked up to the system, the robotic arm was connected to it at the other end. Doctors then let her watch different movements of the robotic arm to make her understand how she can move the robot. The robot was also trained to tolerate any mistakes in the input provided by her.
However, within three months, Jan has shown a progress which has absolutely stunned the researchers. She was not only able to move the robotic arm correctly but also swiftly and was able to perform a whole lot of functions through it.
According to a professor of neurobiology at Pittsburgh University, Andrew Schwartz, “We were blown away by how fast she was able to acquire her skill, that was completely unexpected. At the end of a good day, when she was making these beautiful movements, she was ecstatic.”
After three months of training, Jan is now able to make the robotic arm perform 91.6% of the tasks successfully. However, scientists intend to make the robotic arm more advanced by adding to it the ability to sense texture in a surface and get back this information to the user. One hopes that such excellent advancements in robotic arms will eventually enable patients with disabilities to cope up with their conditions and perform their routine tasks without any hassles.
Courtesy: Raw Story