The College of Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, in collaboration with the University of Minnesota, has achieved an important development in the area of noninvasive robotic device control. Made possible by way of a noninvasive brain-computer interface (BCI), researchers were able to create a successful, first-of-its-kind mind-controlled robotic arm, which manifests ability to track and follow a computer cursor uninterruptedly.
Still, BCIs using noninvasive external sensing as alternative to brain implants, receive murkier signals. That being the case, the robotic arm developed, currently has lower resolution and less accurate control. This suggests that when using only the BCI to control the robotic arm, the results are not at par with one that is controlled by a brain-implanted devices.
Nonetheless, BCI researchers at CMU are determined to forge ahead, as they intend to build neurorobotic technology using less, or non-invasive method in ways that can help patients on a daily basis.
Significance of BCI in Modern Technology
BCI or Brain-Computer Interface is a technology that uses brain activity, particularly brain electric signals in translating voluntary choices into active commands. The purpose of which is to enable individuals with impaired function, carry out communication and control applications to a device in ways that allow them to actually benefit from the technology.
BCIs have been proven capable of achieving good performance in controlling robotic mechanisms, using only signals received from brain implants. Currently though, only robotic arms controlled by BCIs built with invasive brain implants,have demonstrated high precision.
However, brain implants not only present substantial costs, but also potential risks, which limit their tests to a mere handful of clinical cases. Moreover, implants require a high degree of surgical and medical expertise to ensure correct installation and operation.
That is why the challenge that BCI researchers face is to develop BCI that uses noninvasive technology. The main goal is to develop a robotic device that can empower patients suffering from paralysis, to control their environment or move their robotic limbs, using their own thoughts.
Bin He. the Trustee Professor and Department Head of Biomedic Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, aims to ultimately achieve such a goal even if by one breakthrough at a time. He remarked that although major advances in mind-controlled robotic mechanisms have been successful, the devices use brain implants.
Researchers at CMU believe that the robotic arm they created, can lead to successful advancements in its development as a high-precision neurorobotic device, controlled by noninvasive CBI