Robotic Arms plugged into paralysed man’s brain lets him feed himself

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The evolution of robotics is more than just industrial. One key aspect of robotics technology is accessibility, the ability to create robotic limbs that can help disabled people.

Using the latest generation of robotics technology, a partially paralyzed man was finally able to feed himself. Thanks to the help of two robotic arms, the revolutionary improvement in robotic limbs technology shows a staggering improvement to daily life.

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This man can eat again

Revealed in a study published in Frontiers in Neurorobotics, a team of scientists worked to create a legendary robotics experiment. Dr. David Handelman and researchers from Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), in Laurel, Maryland used cutting-edge technology to allow a paralysed man to eat again.

Via Medical Xpress, the journal details how the robotic limbs were controlled. The tester was able to use a brain-machine interface (BMI) to control the limbs, allowing the test subject to have full range of movement without extra steps like vocal commands.

"In order for robots to perform human-like tasks for people with reduced functionality, they will require human-like dexterity. Human-like dexterity requires complex control of a complex robot skeleton," Handelman explained. "Our goal is to make it easy for the user to control the few things that matter most for specific tasks."

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With two robotic arms attached, the paralysis victim is now able to feed himself again. The two robot arms have a knife and fork respectively, which are then used to feed the man via subtle motions with his right and left fists and mental commands. Years after not being able to move his fingers, the man is able to feed himself again.

Read More: Walmart adds fleet of drones and robots to its workforce

Mental work, physical results

Now that these results have proven to be fruitful, it’s worth noting that it took a lot of work to make this BMI technology work. Apparently, it took 15 years of research in all robotics, neural science, and software to make everything work. The hope is that they can normalize these robotic limbs that respond to your mental commands.

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"This shared control approach is intended to leverage the intrinsic capabilities of the brain machine interface and the robotic system, creating a 'best of both worlds' environment where the user can personalize the behavior of a smart prosthesis," said Dr. Francesco Tenore, a senior project manager in APL's Research and Exploratory Development Department. "Although our results are preliminary, we are excited about giving users with limited capability a true sense of control over increasingly intelligent assistive machines.”

Hopefully, this technology will continue to evolve and help out more people who are suffering from paralysis. It will also lessen our fears about robotics since we can see some people benefit from what they can do.