The Japanese people have been trend-setters in electronics and robotics for decades, and it figures that they would have a stake in the latest advancement in humanoid robotics, even if the revelation was made by the French.
As it happens, a collaboration between the French National Center for Scientific Research and the Japanese Institute of Advanced Industrial Science has yielded a working brain-controlled robot prototype.
In the video below, a humanoid robot is shown being controlled by an interface that interprets brain waves into actions.
A volunteer wears an electrode cap and watches a screen with flashing dots. This screen teaches the brain to associate flickering objects with actions.
A computer uses a signal-processing unit to convert brain activity and classify it into tasks. The team then instructs the robot on which task to perform.
By focusing the attention on one or more objects, the wearer can send signals that the robot translates into motions, which it then executes.
“Basically we would like to create devices which would allow people to feel embodied, in the body of a humanoid robot,” one researcher says.
“To do so we are trying to develop techniques from Brain Computer Interfaces (BCI) so that we can read the peoples thoughts and then try to see how far we can go from interpreting brain waves signals, to transform them into actions to be done by the robot.”
Paraplegics who can't perform certain activities on their own easily come to mind as possible beneficiaries of this latest research milestone.
We are also quite sure that all possible military uses have already been brainstormed. Robotics are the way to wage war with no casualties after all.
Entertainment may end up as the main use though. Since distance is not an issue, people, paraplegic or not, could pilot robots located half-way across the world, thus exploring, touring really, important locations from home. Feedback still needs some work, but overall, this is the closest thing to remote, out-of-the-body projection that scientists have come up with thus far.