Researcher from Carnegie Mellon University, in collaboration with the University of Minnesota have made a breakthrough in the field of brain-computer interface (BCI), researchers have developed the first-ever successful innovative mind-controlled non-invasive robotic arm which works independent of brain implants exhibiting the ability to continuously track and follow a computer cursor.
Who does not want to control a robot with the mind? Every one desires to control the technological devices with their mind. And it proves a boon especially to the paralyzed patients and those with the movement disorders. For this we have got two options either to go with the brain implants in which case your control over the robot will be smooth and continuous. At the same time it is risky and expensive.
Another approach is through device that senses your brainwaves from outside your skull — but your control over the bot will be jerky and not nearly as precise. Scientists now have leaped a step forward mitigating the gap between those two options, creating the first noninvasive mind-controlled robot arm that exhibits the kind of smooth continuous motion. In future we can see people can control the devices around them with their thoughts.
A challenge ahead in brain-computer-interface (BCI) research is to develop less invasive or even completely noninvasive technology that would allow paralyzed patients to control their environment or robotic limbs using their own “thoughts.” If this non invasive BCI technology becomes a successful model, then it would be boon to numerous patients and even to the general population.
But, BCIs that use noninvasive external sensing, other than brain implants, receive “dirtier” signals, leading to current lower resolution and less precise control. Hence, when using only the brain to control a robotic arm, a noninvasive BCI doesn’t compete up with the implanted devices.
Despite this, BCI researchers have logged ahead, their eye on the prize of a less- or non-invasive technology that could help patients everywhere on a daily basis.
“There have been major advances in mind controlled robotic devices using brain implants. It’s excellent science,” says He. “But noninvasive is the ultimate goal. Advances in neural decoding and the practical utility of noninvasive robotic arm control will have major implications on the eventual development of noninvasive neurorobotics.”
Science Robotics journal published a paper in which the researchers describe how they used a combination of sensing and machine learning techniques to create a brain-computer interface (BCI) that could reach signals deep within the brains of participants wearing EEG headcaps.
To test their system, they asked the participants to use it to direct a robotic arm to point at a cursor as it moved around a computer screen. The robotic arm was able to continuously track the cursor in real-time with no jerky movements — an exciting first for a noninvasive BCI system.
To overcome noisy EEG signals He is trying with noninvasive neuroimaging and a novel continuous pursuit paradigm, to significantly improve EEG-based neural decoding, and facilitating real-time continuous 2D robotic device control. Using a noninvasive BCI to control a robotic arm that’s tracking a cursor on a computer screen, for the first time ever, He has shown in human subjects that a robotic arm can now follow the cursor continuously. Whereas robotic arms controlled by humans noninvasively had previously followed a moving cursor in jerky, discrete motions — as though the robotic arm was trying to “catch up” to the brain’s commands — now, the arm follows the cursor in a smooth, continuous path.
The paper, “Noninvasive neuroimaging enhances continuous neural tracking for robotic device control,” indicates that the team’s unique approach to solving this problem enhanced BCI learning by nearly 60% for traditional center-out tasks, also enhanced continuous tracking of a computer cursor by over 500%.
The technology also has applications that could help a diverse people, by offering safe, noninvasive “mind control” of devices that can allow people to interact with and control their environments. The technology has, to date, been tested in 68 able-bodied human subjects (up to 10 sessions for each subject), including virtual device control and controlling of a robotic arm for continuous pursuit. The technology is directly applicable to patients, and the team plans to conduct clinical trials in the near future.
“Despite technical challenges using noninvasive signals, we are fully committed to bringing this safe and economic technology to people who can benefit from it,” says He. “This work represents an important step in noninvasive brain-computer interfaces, a technology which someday may become a pervasive assistive technology aiding everyone, like smartphones.”
Until now we had heard the successful controlling of robotic arm using invasive brain implants, however these implants require a substantial amount of medical and surgical experts to accurately install and operate, not to mention cost and potential risks to subjects, and as such, their use has been limited to just a few clinical cases.
Implementing totally noninvasive technology that would allow paralyzed patients to control their environment or robotic limbs using their own “thoughts” will be a step ahead. Such noninvasive BCI technology, if successful, would bring such much needed technology not only to numerous patients but even to the general population.
With the advancement in technology we may also face new unrealized unpredictable drawbacks. Suppose this technology help us to control the devices nearby us with just an thought, that means our brain is also monitored regularly. And who wants their thoughts to be monitored all the time?
Also our thoughts will be stored, downloaded and many more unimaginable things would happen, hence what is the measures for safety of our thoughts.
This also means our thoughts, thinking capacity everything can be controlled completely either by erasing our own self generated thought or by maniuplating our thoughts with the thoughts which we have not thought off!!
And controlling of robots with non-invasive technology is still more risky because this non-invasive technology will be using minute chips which will be hardly noticed. In such case this can be misused against humanity.
And we would not prefer so much addiction to technology that our lives get oriented on it.
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