Researchers have created a breakthrough that will allow disabled individuals to live more independently by employing mind-controlled telepresence robots to help with daily chores and needs.
Researchers at the Defitech Foundation Chair in Brain-Machine Interface (CNBI), headed by Jose del R. Millan, has however been working on a revolutionary brain-machine approach in order to restore a sense of independence to the disabled.
The idea is to remotely control a robot from home with one’s thoughts. The research, involving numerous subjects located in different countries, produced excellent results in both human and technical terms.
Nine disabled people and ten healthy people in Italy, Germany and Switzerland took part in the task of piloting a robot with their thoughts. For several weeks, each of the subjects put on an electrode-studded hat capable of analysing their brain signals. They then instructed the robot to move, transmitting their instructions in real time via internet from their home country.
By virtue of its video camera, screen and wheels, the robot was able to film as it moved while displaying the face of the remote pilot via Skype. The person at the controls, as if moving in place of the robot, was able to interact with whoever the robot crossed paths with.
Millan added that each of the 9 subjects with disabilities managed to remotely control the robot with ease after less than 10 days of training.
The brain-machine interface developed by the researchers goes even further. The robot is able to avoid obstacles by itself, even when it is not told to. To avoid getting overly tired, the pilot can also take a break from giving indications.
In the end, the tests revealed no difference in piloting ability between healthy and disabled subjects.
The study appears in the Proceedings of the IEEE.