Paralyzed Patients Use Thoughts to Direct Robotic Arms

Personal assistance robots may have just become much more user friendly. According to Leigh Hochberg, MD, PhD, of Brown University in Providence, R.I., and colleagues in a recent research project, two patients in a clinical trial were able to directly control robotic arms by using their thoughts.

Dr. Hochberg related in a paper published in the May 17 issue of Nature, “Using an investigational neural interface system — called BrainGate – two quadriplegics in a clinical trial were able to direct robotic arms to touch and grab foam balls.”

One of the patients was even able to grab a bottle of coffee and drink through a straw by controlling a heavy-duty arm, the researchers reported . The patient had not been able to do that by herself in nearly 15 years.

It seems to me that this may open the whole field of robotics to the idea of controlling machines with thoughts. Think of a robotic vacuum cleaner that you could direct to a spot that it missed during its cleaning runs. Even better a robotic exoskeleton that a paralyzed patient could direct to allow them to walk around and carry out fundamental tasks. This is merely the logical extension of the outcome of this research.

Imagine the freedom that mobility-impaired people would gain with the full development of this technology. Truly amazing stuff!

Robotic Arms Allow Paralyzed Patients to Grasp Objects
By Elizabeth Lopatto on May 16, 2012

Two people paralyzed by strokes were able to control robotic arms by using their thoughts, a medical advance that may lead to more-sophisticated prosthetic limbs. One patient, a 58-year-old woman, used a robot arm
Stroke Victims Control Robotic Arm With Thoughts Wall Street Journal
Paralyzed woman gets robotic arm she controls with her mind
Paralysis victims use brain signals to control robotic arm USA TODAY
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Robotic Arms Allow Paralyzed Patients to Grasp Objects – BusinessWeek
Wed, 16 May 2012 17:26:18 GMT