Controlling robotic limbs with intentions

In May, a 34-year-old paralyzed man became the world’s first person to control his robotic arm with nothing but his intentions.

A partnership of Caltech, Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, and Keck Medicine embedded electronics in the section of the man’s brain where intentions are formed. As a result, he can pick up a glass to take a drink and play “rock paper scissors,” among other things.

Previous neural electronics were implanted in the part of the brain that controls movement, causing robotic limbs to be jerky or spastic in their actions. Transferring control to the part of the brain that intends solves the problem.

TRENDPOST: Work in thought-controlled devices has been going on since the 1980s. As neuroscience and the increasing sophistication of electronics evolve together, this will be a rich field for development and entrepreneurs. However, this initial work will continue to be funded largely by private foundations and government agencies. Benefits to private investors are likely to be at least 10 years away.

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