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Mechatronics
Update on Thought-Controlled Robots
11/27/2012

By focusing their attention on patterns created by flickering lights on a PC screen, which are associated with specific actions, users can control which actions they want a robot to perform, where the robot moves, and how it interacts with its environment.   (Source: CNRS-AIST Joint Robotics Laboratory)
By focusing their attention on patterns created by flickering lights on a PC screen, which are associated with specific actions, users can control which actions they want a robot to perform, where the robot moves, and how it interacts with its environment.
(Source: CNRS-AIST Joint Robotics Laboratory)

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Rob Spiegel
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Rob Spiegel   11/27/2012 3:05:23 PM
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Great article, Ann. When you did your first article on thought-controlled robots, my first impression is that this technology could be used by those who need to control robotic arms and legs.

Ann R. Thryft
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Ann R. Thryft   11/27/2012 3:44:30 PM
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That's right, Rob, paraplegics and quadriplegics (tetraplegics) are one target group for this technology, for actual physical robotic embodiment a la Avatar. Under the VERE project aegis, the other target group consists of rehab training for people temporarily confined to a bed or wheelchair.

Charles Murray
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Charles Murray   11/27/2012 6:46:14 PM
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This is incredible, Ann. Any idea how long it took to write the signal processing algorithms for this? It seems like an almost-impossible task.  

Greg M. Jung
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Greg M. Jung   11/27/2012 8:28:50 PM
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Yes, if paraplegics and quadriplegics could benefit from this technology, that would indeed be wonderful.  I wonder if the other groups like the elderly could also benefit?  (Or would the technology learning curve be a little too steep?)

Rob Spiegel
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Rob Spiegel   11/27/2012 9:57:35 PM
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This technology could take prosthetics to a new level for users. While it may be awkward now, I would guess this technology will be refined in coming years.

Battar
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Battar   11/28/2012 9:21:47 AM
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Charles,

             The algorithms are far simpler than you think because you have a "man-in-the-loop" who can unconciously compensate for fairly large errors. For example, given 2 systems which react with a 30 degree difference in angular movement for the same input - well with one you'll just push a little harder until you get the desired result. You wouldn't even notice it. With fully automated autonomous systems, output must match input exactly or there will be trouble.

Battar
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Battar   11/28/2012 9:26:16 AM
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Rob,

        There is a downside to using thought to control robotic actions.

"Must - stop - thinking - about - kicking - the - boss - in - the - nuts ..."

Dilbert and Wally would have a field day with this.

Can you imagine the subsequent lawsuits? "I didn't push him under the truck.. I was just thinking about the insurance money..." 

Rob Spiegel
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Rob Spiegel   11/28/2012 10:42:25 AM
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That's funny, Battar. Would the machine read our subliminal thoughts? That could bring along a whole new way of living.

Ann R. Thryft
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Ann R. Thryft   11/28/2012 11:33:21 AM
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Greg, the elderly could certainly benefit if they're among either target group, such as people confined to bed or wheelchairs. Since the technology is still being developed, most of the current learning curve is occurring among experimenters as they learn what thoughts produce what actions. Ideally, there won't be much for users.

Charles Murray
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Charles Murray   11/28/2012 6:16:31 PM
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Thanks, Battar. What you say makes sense. I still have to admit, though, I find it stunning that a software algorithm can read the electrical activities of the brain and translate it into anything.

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