The desire to use robotics to help people regain mobility has been around for a few years now. Until recently the research has been moving along to help people regain mobility by implanting devices into people’s brains to pick up their electrical impulses and it has had varying degrees of success. Last month the announcement of a new arm that was completely controlled by a woman who had lost her ability to use her body was announced and it was amazing. DARPA implanted a device into her brain that allowed her to control the arm and take a drink from a cup. The joy in her face when it worked makes the money spent well worth it.
Now a scientist by the name of Philip Low, a professor at Stanford and inventor of the iBrain, is working on a brain scanner that focuses on electrical activity and he tested it on Stephen Hawking. “We’d like to find a way to bypass his body, pretty much hack his brain,” said Prof Low.
Hawking and Low described how the physicist had to learn to create patterns of impulses by imagining moving his hands and limbs. “This is very exciting for us because it allows us to have a window into the brain. We’re building technology that will allow humanity to have access to the human brain for the first time,” said Prof Low.
This is all very exciting because this means that we could see fully controlled robots in the very near future. The iBrain device doesn’t need to be implanted into someones brain, it is a device that they wear. Last month the device was tested on Hawking and the results were good. “The emergence of such biomarkers opens the possibility to link intended movements to a library of words and convert them into speech, thus providing motor neurone sufferers with communication tools more dependent on the brain than on the body.”
The hope is that a device like this that can read the brains intentions will one day be able to help a doctor prescribe the right doses of medicine, be used to help treat sleep disorders, depression and even autism.