Controlling computers and robotic appendages with nothing more than brainwaves promises to make computing easier for the public and provide valuable services to the handicapped. Progress on that goal took many steps forward when Idoya, a monkey at Duke University, demonstrated the ability to remotely control a walking humanoid robot’ in Japan. Dr. Nicolelis trained Idoya to walk on a treadmill while carefully recording signals from electrodes planted in the monkey’s brain. When the data analysis was linked into the robot’s programming, Idoya was put onto a treadmill with a video of the Japanese robot’s legs. She was rewarded as her walking successfully moved the legs.
While this is a leap forward in progress for brain control interfaces (BCI), the eventual recipients of the technology will not likely want electrodes permanently attached to their brains. Research continues on self-paced BCI, based on a less intrusive EEG, which currently has a much lower level of accuracy. Target thresholds are currently set at 70% true positive which has proven very elusive, although developments have improved significantly in reducing the number of associated false positives.
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