Like we said many times before here on Capitalberg, we’re living in an age of constant scientific progress. Our legacy will be technological development, as today we are living what just a couple of decades ago would be viewed as science-fiction. And few fields are as relevant to develop as medicine.
After scientists have managed to use a 3D printer to create fully functional artificial limbs, it’s time to move on to developing a way to control them. For this, a team of researchers from Duke University developed a BMI allowing monkeys to control wheelchairs by thought.
Brain Machine Interfaces
With somewhere around 70% of all paralyzed individuals suitable to go through surgery in order to have electrodes implanted in their brain so as to have control over devices, it’s a wonder that we haven’t made more progress in this field sooner. But boy, oh boy, what progress we’ve made recently!
Attempting to learn more about how a brain-machine interface device would work to give primates control over machines, the team of researchers actually managed to train monkeys to use the motorized wheelchairs used in the experiment. And they used them via mind control.
By coupling electrodes to a group of neurons responsible for transmitting signals related to movement, the team managed to give a group of monkeys complete control over the motorized wheelchairs. From there, the team proceeded to train the monkeys to use the wheelchairs to get to a bowl of grapes.
By taking a brain scan of the monkeys while they were trained to use the machine, one while they controlling it to go for the grapes, and a third one when giving them full control, the researchers noticed something very impressive and unexpected – the monkeys were adapting to the controls, maneuvering the wheelchair increasingly better and easier.
Walk Again Project
Of course, this is huge news for people with limited or reduced mobility, as well as for a part of those fully paralyzed. The study was part of the Walk Again Project, which is aimed at creating BMIs to help paralyzed people gain control over devices and artificial limbs.
But the project’s goals are far bigger than offering limited mobility. The people behind want to create devices that would allow the paralyzed patients to gain as mush mobility as possible. Because of this, they are pursuing one of the most awesome projects ever.
After finishing the brain-machine interface, the team behind the Walk Again Project is planning to start working on robotic exoskeletons. Yeah. Robotic exoskeletons. If the team is going to have its way, in a matter of a few years we might be seeing people walking down the street in fully operational, mind-controlled mech suits. How’s that for a sci-fi future?