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Thought Power

Using brain-computer interfaces, scientists have taught a monkey to “walk” a robot by simply thinking.  

Researchers at Duke University trained a monkey (Idoya) to walk on a treadmill, and electrodes were implanted in her brain to capture electronic signals. The signals were translated into computer instructions and sent via high-speed Internet to the lab in Kyoto, Japan, where the robot “Computational Brain” (CB) resides. The monkey could watch the robot on a large monitor and was instructed to control CB through her own walking motion. As Idoya walked, CB also walked at roughly the same pace with minor time delays. The lead scientist, Dr. Migeul Nicolelis, said “We have shown that you can carry brain signals across the planet to control devices in the time scale that a biological system works.”  

But that’s just the beginning. The researchers stopped the treadmill, leaving the monkey standing still and continuing to stare at the video of the robot. Whereas before Idoya was merely thinking about its own walking, now it was asked to make the robot walk using its thought alone.  For 3 minutes, Idoya “walked” the robot using sheer thought power. The team plans to demonstrate that human thought can operate an exoskeleton (robotic body suit).

TechCast was first to identify this exciting new technology and to define it as “Thought Power.” We forecast that intelligent brain-computer interfaces enabling people to communicate mentally with distant objects and people are likely to arrive commercially in about 1 decade.  

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