The ability to control a robot with your thoughts may sound like something from a sci-fi movie. But it may soon become reality for people with paralyzing diseases. A group of Swiss scientists have recently demonstrated how a paralyzed individual could control robots using the power of mind in order to interact with their environment. It’s something akin to what we have seen in the movie ‘Avatar‘ few years before. This experiment is different from the similar earlier experiments that had been done by scientists in the USA and Germany.
Some scientists at Switzerland’s Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne used a simple head cap to record brain signals of Mark-Andre Duc. Mark-Andre Duc who was at a hospital in the southern Swiss town of Sion 100 kilometers (62 miles) away lost control of his legs and fingers in a fall. Researchers decoded his thoughts by a laptop at the hospital and transmitted his thoughts almost instantly to a one foot tall robot which was in Lausanne.
The robot is based on previous projects that let patients control an electric wheelchair. Researchers programmed the robot to continue commands until the user requested a different command. It allows the user to expend less energy to control the robot.
“But when I’m in pain it becomes more difficult,” Duc said through a video link screen on a second laptop attached to the robot.
But, unfortunately while the human brain is perfectly capable of performing several tasks at once, a paralyzed person would have to focus the entire time they are directing the device.
“The goal is that after a year of training with a robotic aide, the patient will be able to walk without a robot. The electrodes would stay implanted for life,” Gregoire Courtine, lead researcher and associate professor of life sciences at the Federal Polytechnic School said.