In this amazing feat of engineering, a person’s thoughts are used to navigate a robot, which makes us wonder about other applications in the future.
Using a brain-computer interface developed by University of Minnesota biomedical engineering professor Bin He, several students learned to steer a robotic quadcopter with just their thoughts. As shown in the video, they navigated the craft around a gym, making it turn, rise, dip, and even sail through a ring.
Similar technology may someday allow disabled people to regain speech or mobility lost due to disease or injury. They may be able to control a variety of devices with just their thoughts, including lights, TV remotes, artificial limbs and wheelchairs. The solution is completely noninvasive: brain waves (EEG) are picked up by electrodes in a cap worn on the scalp, not requiring a chip implanted in the brain.
A more detailed report on the technology is available in the Journal of Neural Engineering, and the video is shown below.
The Cyborg in Us All (NY Times)
COMMENT: Just as memories of the Brazilian lab rat were recorded and then transmitted to a rat at Duke, imagine the day when you can “plug in” to learn a new language or how to play an instrument or other applications of mind-machine and mind-mind interfaces. When will that occur? And will these capabilities be used for good or evil?
Imagine the implications of a $1,000 computer that becomes as powerful as the human brain (Ray Kurzweil projects that by 2037) or as powerful as the human race (2049) and how eventually that’s a $0.01 embedded processor that’s connected to trillions of similar processors in an Internet of Things, or dozens or thousands of cell-sized processors living in, and powered by, our bodies.
What will become of humans? After all, the biology of humans and other living organisms have evolved slowly – over many centuries – while tech innovation has evolved exponentially, following Moore’s Law. ‘Heady stuff (pun intended).