Friday, April 29, 2011

Latest Technology Connects Brain with Robotics

A new device developed in Japan by Honda Motor Company can analyze thought patterns and actually relays them as wireless commands.

Straight out of a science fiction tale, now opening a car trunk or even controlling a home air-conditioner becomes merely a thought.

Honda’s robot is known as Asimo. Shaped like a human, it receives wireless commands via electric currents on a person’s scalp. Asimo can also decipher changes in cerebral blood flow whenever a person thinks about four movements; namely, moving the right hand, moving the left hand, running and eating.
According to Honda, a leader in the field of robotics, the technology is not quite ready for a live demonstration and is still in research stages for a number of reasons. Distractions in a person’s thinking could offset Asimo, and brain patterns differ greatly among individuals, which means advance study of at least two years is required in order for the technology to function. Also, the reading device needs to be smaller so it can be portable.

A recent video reveals a man wearing a helmet that is seated and thinking about moving his right hand. His thought is transmitted to the robot by cords attached to his head inside the helmet. It took a few seconds, but then Asimo, dutifully programmed to respond to brain signals, lifted its right arm.

Yasuhisa Arai, executive at Honda Research Institute had this to say regarding the project:
“I’m talking about dreams today. Practical uses are still way into the future. Our products are for people to use. It is important for us to understand human behavior. We think this is the ultimate in making machines move.”

Deciphering brain patterns represents an important breakthrough in medical research. All over the world, scientists are attempting to unlock the mysteries of the human brain, but Honda believes its research in the field is among the most advanced and least invasive anywhere.

Embedding the necessary sensors under the skin is a painless procedure that is easily tolerated. The Japanese government is encouraging this robotic research as it sees the industry as a path to growth.

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