Developing bionics: How IBM is research on adapting mind-control for accessibility

What if there was a way out for people suffering from conditions like Locked-in syndrome or paralysis? What if they were able to control tech gadgets and prosthetic devices using mind-control? Many scientists and engineers working on it to create such a way out. So, the day is near when we’ll have mind-controlled tech gadgets.

IBM Research is working on the same. It recently developed an end-to-end proof-of-concept for a way of using an off-the-shelf robotic arm with the help of brain. For assuming brain, they used a brain-computer interface created using a take-home EEG monitor. For this, they had to create an AI that interprets the data from the EEG monitor as instructions for the robotic arm.

This may not sound like something that will turn the tables around overnight. Also, IBM isn’t the only company or the first company to test brain computer interfaces. But, it is the only company that tried to figure out how to build such a system using inexpensive hardware that is already available.

Primary Objectives

TNW reached out to a research scientist, Stefan Harrer working on the same project at IBM Research. According to him, they have two primary objectives. First, they want to create a low-cost system that is suitable general public. For this, they transformed their expensive research grade exploratory setup to a setup that is inexpensive for general public. So, their first objective is to build an affordable system. Secondly, they want to move the system from highly specialized research labs to the real life environment.

Ultimately, their focus is to build a system which is affordable to the general public, and can be implemented in the real-life environment.

This system indicates people their can control tech gadgets using their minds alone. Commonly available technology along with a cutting-edge AI will make everything possible. This can be considered as a boon for those who don’t have similar controls over their bodies. People suffering from conditions like paralysis or Locked-in syndrome will consider this technology as the greatest gift from the mankind.

Harrer also suggested that further research can improve the machine learning techniques. Improved AI could potentially control tech gadgets, a prosthetic limb, or even a robot assistant.

Verdict

Currently, IBM’s system isn’t ready to get practical. Researchers are working on reducing latency and improving AI. Also, they do not have any plans for human trials right now. But, the proof-of-concept by the company suggests that in no time we’ll be surrounded by devices built using this technology. Soon, these devices will become a common accessibility solution for those people who don’t have same control over bodies. You can visit IBM’s blog for more information about this.

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