Mind control has a whiff of sci-fi about it but it’s a tech that is getting closer and closer to being realised in practical ways for the benefit of humankind. Swiss researchers have now enabled a partially paralysed person to control a robot by through thought alone, from a distance of 100Km (62 miles). No implants or probes were used in the experiment; the test subject just wore a special cap.
In the experiment that took place on Tuesday in Switzerland, the brain signals of a Mr Mark-Andre Duc were decoded almost instantly and transmitted to control the 62 mile distant robot. Mr Duc lost the control of his fingers and legs in an accident. To control the robot’s movements he just imagined moving his fingers left and right, resulting in those corresponding movements in the robot’s directions.
To combat distraction or tiredness the system follows a command until it is given a different one so once a wheelchair has started moving forward, for example, it will continue without any further thought control until the user wishes to stop or change direction.
Reading mind activity, interpreting it and translating it at any speed has been a challenge to science for years in trying to make brain-computer interfaces. If a test subject’s mind is at all distracted the readings can be clouded, slowed or be in error. A practical use of the mind control could be in controlling a wheel chair, suggested the system developer, Prof. Jose Milan in Lausanne, Switzerand.
In the future the scientists hope to develop the technology into brain controlled mechanised prosthetics for lost arms, legs or hands. Combining this ‘neuroprosthetic’ with another project of ‘electric skin’ that lets a user gain senses in lost limbs the researchers aim to replace lost limbs with working and feeling robotic replacements one day.
If you feel inspired into using the power of your mind to move things right now you could always buy yourself one of Mattel Inc.’s Mind Flex games.