Cyberpunk Review » Quadriplegic Controls Robot Arm With Thought.

December 31, 2012

Quadriplegic Controls Robot Arm With Thought.

Source: Singularity Hub, CBS News (60 Minutes)

Woman with robot arm

Jan Scheuermann went from Wheel Of Fortune to a wheelchair, to being able to control a robot arm.

‘Breakthrough’ they say. 60 Minutes’s Scott Pelley used the term to describe the thought-controlled robot arm, though I suspect he may not have seen such machinery before. But given how this arm is controlled, “breakthrough” might be the appropriate term.

Jan Scheuermann appeared on Wheel Of Fortune in 1995. A year after her appearance, she was diagnosed with a hereditary condition called spinocerebellar degeneration (ataxia), which causes parts of her brain and spinal column to degenerate, leaving her a quadriplegic. Researchers at University of Pittsburgh’s Pitt School of Medicine attached two electrode arrays to her brain near the areas used for arm movement, and in a year she was able to use the arm as well as a normal person.

 

Four years in the making. The arm is the result of a Defense Department project called “Revolutionizing Prosthetics,” a project looking at making a new generation of prosthetic limbs that restore normal functions for soldiers who lost limbs in battle.

This old Associated Press video shows an early stage of the project where a monkey uses his mind to control a robot arm.

Sooner or later, this technology had to come to the average person, not just paraplegics but amputees as well.

In Jan’s case, having to connect the arm directly to her brain was necessary since her ataxia has ruined the connection(s) between her brain and limbs. For amputees, the connections are still intact so the connection can be made at the nerve endings.

 

Further refinements. Jan’s new arm is impressive, but still far from perfect. In the 60 Minutes video Jan has problems with grabbing objects she looks at. One possible solution is to use ‘touch’ sensors in the fingers to give feedback. Another possibility being considered is the use of Wi-Fi to eliminate the skull connectors.

Earlier this year, NIH’s NINDS division announced their BCI system called BrainGate. Link for further details.

Restoring arm and leg functions for amputees and paraplegics are only the beginning. They’re also looking at eyes (no pun intended), ears, and even artificial internal organs for for stroke and cerebral palsy victims, and even the elderly.

Once such artificial limbs and organs are ready for the general public, the only thing left to worry about is…

This post has been filed under Brain-Computer Interface, News as Cyberpunk by Mr. Roboto.

Comments

January 17, 2013

Kregoric said:

I don’t think we have to worry about a shitty movie taking over our means to gaining this wonderful technology.

March 5, 2013

spiralofhope said:

The first thing I worried about was wireless cracking taking devices over, trolling people, etc.

Even something as basic as a pacemaker has fundamental issues at this level.

http://www.ted.com/talks/avi_rubin_all_your_devices_can_be_hacked.html

March 6, 2013

Kliptrip said:

I believe Professor Kevin Warwick has successfully controlled a robotic hand, with thought, over a network and across the planet, years before this. So I’m not sure how “breakthrough” it really is, I’m glad other people are jumping on transhuman technology. though.

P.S. I also believe the Prof is looking for someone willing to link minds with him via implants connected to nervous systems since his wife said no to this one.

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