What was once science fiction is becoming a reality faster than you
might have thought thanks to the work of internationally-supported
applied presence and applied cognitive neuroscience research. Just ask Tirosh Shapira who recently, from a laboratory in Israel, commanded a humanoid robot
in a French laboratory to walk and pick up objects simply by imagining that he himself was walking and picking up objects.
Robotic embodiment based on motor imaging: image via youtube.com
In this amazing experiment, researchers at Bar-llan University used an fMRI of Shapira's brain to control the robots movements at Béziers Technology Institute
in France. When Shapira imagined himself walking, his fMRI was
converted to an algorithm established by the research team; other
algorithms were created from Shapira's thoughts to distinguish between
walking and moving other parts of his body in different ways.
camera over the robot's head allowed Shapira to see the robot's
environment so he could direct his thoughts specifically to the
relationship of the 'avatar' to objects in it. Shapira's thoughts were
communicated to the bot by computer, so that when Shapira imagined
himself walking, the bot walked. When he imagined himself lifting an
object to his left or right side, the robot would turn 30 degrees to the
left or right and move its corresponding arm.
This experiment was one of several ongoing research projects of VERE (Virtual Embodiment and Robotic Re-Embodiment), a European effort, and AINST
(National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology),
largely funded by the Japanese government. The goal of both agencies is
to create surrogates that work just like those in the movie Avatar to be used in rehabilitation and training of those that are physically restricted to a bed or wheelchair.
Human brain controls robot's movements: illustration from vereproject.eu/
The above graphic from a study entitled Multitask Humanoid Control with a Brain-Computer Interface: user experiment with HRP-2,
illustrates the events created in brain controlled experiments, such as
the one conducted between the Bar-llan University student and the
Béziers Technology Institute's robot.
sources: Design News, VERE, AINST, Multitask Humanoid Control with a Brain-Computer Interface: user experiment with HRP-2