Here I come with a post title that might sound a little bit too philosophic for my liking, but hey, never judge a book by its cover (or title) – some authors are simply terrible at titles. What I really wanted to talk about is this article by James Gallagher I read on the BBC website about how a paralyzed woman could control a robotic arm with her thoughts.
Of course, the woman is no psychic, she’s participating in a research on how robotics can be therapeutic for people with spinal cord injuries. And she could not really use the robotic arm at home, considering that the experiment took place in a lab. However, the experts claim that the ability to pick up and move a variety of objects with a robotic arm that is controlled by one’s thoughts was better than expected. The quotes regarding the experiment include “unprecedented performance” and a “remarkable achievement”.
The things that allowed the person to move the robotic arm were two sensors implanted in the motor cortex of her brain. The sensors are 4mm x 4mm each, and they pick up the electrical activity from around 200 brain cells. Then the pulses of electricity are translated into the commands to move the arm. It requires training to control the arm properly, but the scientists are excited about the potential of a healthy brain that can overcome a damaged body.
Soon stuff like robotic arms and legs we see only in sci-fi movies and comic books will become an everyday thing. That is, of course, if they learn how to lower down the overall cost of these gadgets.