Forget about a computer mouse, touchpad, or a remote control. Times are changing and people no longer need a dinky little device to interact with a piece of technology, we can just use our thoughts.
That is, at least, the path we seem to be on thanks to an incredible technological breakthrough brought to us by a team of researchers at the University of Minnesota. This team of scientists developed a robotic arm that can be moved and used with thought alone.
In a recent test trial involving eight different people, each participant was successfully able to dictate the motion of a robotic arm simply by telling it where to go with their mind.
The rather incredible technique is called noninvasive electroencephalogram (EEG) based control and falls under the larger technological umbrella of brain-computer interface (BCI) technologies.
That’s quite the mouthful, yes, and it alludes to the rather complex nature of the technology.
In order to link the robotic arm to the thought of people, a specialized EEG cap is worn. The cap itself is outfitted with 64 electrodes that can literally transfer thoughts from a person’s brain directly to the robotic arm to perform an action.
But it’s not as if the EEG cap is tracking everything going on in a person’s mind. To narrow down action-oriented thought patterns, the EEG cap focuses on the motor cortex area of the cerebrum. This is the part of the brain that is sends out little electric impulses anytime a person even just thinks about moving.
So, using a specialized program, the BCI technology monitors the motor cortex of the brain and uses these signals to inform the robotic arm where it should move and when.
The technology is far from perfect, though the aforementioned test trial went incredibly well, with most participants achieving a 70%-80% success rate when asked to move an object with the robotic arm.
Once it’s perfected, however, the BCI tech will be especially useful for those with mobile disabilities or have lost limbs.
For a look at the robotic arm that moves just by thinking, check out a short video feature of the test trial below. And for more info, read the tech’s scientific report here.
Featured image courtesy of: Tomasz_Mikolajczyk