The mind has been given the power to master the body beyond doubt with the help of this innovation. A robotic arm has been invented by a team with the University of Minnesota that can be controlled by the users with their minds alone. Millions of people who are paralyzed or are going through neurodegenerative diseases can be helped regain a sense of autonomy via this research.
A non-invasive method known as electroencephalography (EEG) based brain-computer interface is being used by the system. Actually, it takes weak electrical activity and turns those pulses into action. These electrical impulses and thoughts are converted into action by an EEG cap containing 64 electrodes.
A biomedical engineering professor and lead researcher on the study, Bin He told, “This is the first time in the world that people can operate a robotic arm to reach and grasp objects in a complex 3D environment using only their thoughts without a brain implant. Just by imagining moving their arms, they were able to move the robotic arm.”
However, his specialization is in brain COMPUTER interface study. The EEG cap and brain-computer interfaces (BCI) was initially created by him three years ago in order to fly a QUADCOPTER DRONE with his mind. The video and research made international headlines and now, he attained his goal of aiding in “bypassing[ing] damaged areas” of the brain. As he said to campus news,
“Three years ago, we weren’t sure moving a more complex robotic arm to grasp and move objects using this brain-computer interface technology could even be achieved. We’re happily surprised that it worked with a high success rate and in a group of people.”
Eight people walked through sessions in this research wearing the EEG cap. First of all, they had to visualize using their arms moving without actually moving them. Then they controlled a computer screen cursor before using the robotic arm itself. Each subject was given the task of moving the robotic arm to pick up and reach for objects on a shelf in front of them. 80 percent average success rate was obtained by the student subjects in picking up objects from fixed locations. Lower success rate of 70 percent was attained in moving objects from the TABLE to the shelf.
A major challenge was faced while creating an interface complex enough to replicate true anthropomorphic control, as per the research. The task faced the team was to carefully duplicate, without oversimplifying commands, the way the brain talks to the body. In addition to this, the team also needed to develop a robotic arm that is responsive enough to acutely read the gradations of each subject’s thoughts.
It was also notified by the report that the Minnesota team became one of the first to be successful in employing a prosthetic arm by means of EEG cap and BCI. The study noted, “Such previous efforts have primarily constrained the BCI control system to be discrete in one dimension or a plane without exploring the full possibility of controls in three-dimensional space.”
Bin He stated, “This is exciting as all subjects accomplished the tasks using a completely noninvasive technique. We see a big potential for this research to help people who are paralyzed or have neurodegenerative diseases to become more independent without a need for surgical implants.”
The study has been published in its latest edition by Scientific Reports.