Direct Brain Control of a Humanoid Robot

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Researchers demonstrate direct brain control of humanoid robot

A classic science-fiction scene shows a person wearing a metal skullcap with electrodes sticking out to detect the person’s thoughts. Another sci-fi movie standard depicts robots doing humans’ bidding. Now the two are combined, and in real life: University of Washington researchers can control the movement of a humanoid robot with signals from a human brain.

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Rajesh Rao, associate professor of computer science and engineering, and his students have demonstrated that an individual can “order” a robot to move to specific locations and pick up specific objects merely by generating the proper brain waves that reflect the individual’s instructions. The results were presented last week at the Current Trends in Brain-Computer Interfacing meeting in Whistler, B.C.

“This is really a proof-of-concept demonstration,” Rao says. “It suggests that one day we might be able to use semi-autonomous robots for such jobs as helping disabled people or performing routine tasks in a person’s home.”

More at Neural Systems Group

Here is the video…

Hattip: Biosingularity Blog

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3 comments

  1. That’s both fascinating and creepy. I think it’s that faction of the scientific community that seems to want to replace mankind with machines that worries me. True robots may be able to help the disabled but they will never be able to do the human bonding thing – some things just can’t be replaced with electrodes and circuit boards.
    WC

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  2. writerchick,

    To me, the emergence of an electroencephalographic interface between man and machine, which requires no physical input, and no implantation of any hardware device of any kind, but rather is solely controlled by the thoughts of the user using his or her emanating brainwaves, is a much more sweeping development than the robotic demonstration portion of this particular experiment.

    Imagine of you will; blogging by thought …

    Eventually an electroencephalographic interface (using the brain’s “electromagnetic field” to provide the user interface) could become sophisticated enough to fundamentally blur the line between the thoughts taking place in your body’s head and the thought taking place in any number of external processors.

    People regularly wear computers right now, (digital watches, PDAs, cell phones, etc.) How long before we see the widespread use of wearable computers, especially with the advent of an interface that you can wear in your hat and the availability of computer displays that are mounted in your glasses? Your personal gear would naturally be networked wirelessly to your home computer system; with all of your systems likely networked with whatever the internet eventually metamorphoses into.

    Ponder on these imponderables for a moment; Once people are networked together in such a way, what will spam be like? Or computer viruses?

    Before you dismiss the above as sheer science fiction, consider the following…

    I remember when a fellow student was laughed at in grade school class when he said that people would one day carry a computer in their pocket that would be more powerful than the NASA computers that had just landed a man on the moon. Today my PDA is just that, and my laptop is exponentially more powerful than my PDA. You see people wearing those cute little Bluetooth headsets while seemingly talking to themselves on Cellular devices (that are also powerful PDA devices) every day.

    Is it much of a stretch from there to a complete wearable computer system? Rather than replacing the human element, I see this as a way to enhance the human part of the equation.

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  3. PT,
    Unfortunately, what you said made sense to me – but it still gives me the creeps. Maybe I’ve read too much sci-fi where all the scientists have evil ends – I have that kind of mind any way. Though I must say – I’m already shamelessly addicted to the internet and blogging, I shudder to think what would happen if I could wear my computer all the time. And wouldn’t those keyboards be really tiny?
    WC

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