New AI limbs let amputees control robotic arms with just the power of their mind

A team of scientists has created new technology that could allow amputees to control prosthetics by using the power of their minds

By Forrest McFarland

AMPUTEES could use the power of their minds to control new AI robotic arms, research shows.

A team of scientists has created prosthetic technology that enables people to control robot arms by using their brain impulses.

The University of Minnesota team of researchers came together to find a more intuitive option for amputees, a new study shows.

“With prosthetic systems, when amputees want to move a finger, they don’t actually think about moving a finger,” research scientist Jules Anh Tuan Nguyen said.

“They’re trying to activate the muscles in their arms since that’s what the system reads.”

Current technology forces amputees to use the remaining muscles in their arms to move their prosthetics.

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Researchers create a prosthetic arm that can be moved with an amputee’s mind

For centuries prosthetics have helped amputees, but until now those prosthetics, while helpful, have not given the same function as what was lost. However, a group of researchers are working on changing that.

A new piece of technology is being developed by researchers at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities that will make clumsy prosthetics a thing of the past.

The new device is said to be less invasive, more accurate, and allows amputees to move a robotic prosthetic with their arm using brain signals.

Researchers published their findings in a paper in the Journal of Neural Engineering. Jules Anh Tuan Nguyen, a postdoctoral researcher and University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering alumnus, shared that there is nothing else like this tech.

“It’s a lot more intuitive than any commercial system out there,” Nguyen said in a press release. “With other commercial prosthetic systems, when amputees want to move a finger, they don’t actually think about moving a finger.”

The tech, developed at the University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, is a small implantable device that attaches to the peripheral nerve in a person’s arm.

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FRACTAL NEURON GROWTH COULD LEAD TO BIONIC EYES

BY U. OREGON

Researchers have grown rodent retinal neurons on a fractal-patterned electrode, one that mimics the repeating branching pattern in which neurons naturally grow.

It’s a step closer to making a bio-inspired bionic eye, a longstanding goal for University of Oregon physicist Richard Taylor.

Taylor hopes the tiny electrodes could someday be implanted into the eye to restore sight in people with macular degeneration or other vision disorders.

The new work provides experimental evidence supporting a hunch his team has been pursuing for years, that neurons, which themselves are fractals, will connect better to a fractal-patterned electrode than they do to more traditionally shaped electrodes, allowing better signal transmission between the implant and the brain.

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SCIENTISTS SAY BRAIN IMPLANT LET COMPLETELY PARALYZED MAN COMMUNICATE AGAIN

“I MYSELF COULD NOT BELIEVE THAT THIS IS POSSIBLE.”

A 34-year-old paralyzed man who had even lost the ability to move his eyes due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), is able to communicate again through a brain implant.

Rather than the system tracking his eyes as with current-generation tech, The New York Times reports, the implant was able to pick up on the man imagining moving his eyes. It’s a notable neuroscience achievement that could give others in a similar locked-in state a way to express themselves again — though it’s not a perfect solution, and will require additional work before it can help others.

The results of the 2020 experiment conducted by Ujwal Chaudhary, a since retired biomedical engineer then at the University of Tübingen, Germany and co-author of a study about the project published in the journal Nature Communications this week, came as a shock.

“I myself could not believe that this is possible,” Chaudhary told the NYT.

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Decoding brain signals to control a robotic arm

Experimental paradigm. Subjects were instructed to perform reach-and-grasp movements to designate the locations of the target in three-dimensional space. (a) Subjects A and B were provided the visual cue as a real tennis ball at one of four pseudo-randomized locations. (b) Subjects A and B were provided the visual cue as a virtual reality clip showing a sequence of five stages of a reach-and-grasp movement. Credit: The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)

by  The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)

Researchers have developed a mind-reading system for decoding neural signals from the brain during arm movement. The method, described in the journal Applied Soft Computing, can be used by a person to control a robotic arm through a brain-machine interface (BMI).

A BMI is a device that translates nerve signals into commands to control a machine, such as a computer or a robotic limb. There are two main techniques for monitoring neural signals in BMIs: electroencephalography (EEG) and electrocorticography (ECoG).

The EEG exhibits signals from electrodes on the surface of the scalp and is widely employed because it is non-invasive, relatively cheap, safe and easy to use. However, the EEG has low spatial resolution and detects irrelevant neural signals, which makes it difficult to interpret the intentions of individuals from the EEG.

On the other hand, the ECoG is an invasive method that involves placing electrodes directly on the surface of the cerebral cortex below the scalp. Compared with the EEG, the ECoG can monitor neural signals with much higher spatial resolution and less background noise. However, this technique has several drawbacks.

“The ECoG is primarily used to find potential sources of epileptic seizures, meaning the electrodes are placed in different locations for different patients and may not be in the optimal regions of the brain for detecting sensory and movement signals,” explained Professor Jaeseung Jeong, a brain scientist at KAIST. “This inconsistency makes it difficult to decode brain signals to predict movements.”

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Egyptian researcher develops brainwave-controlled wheelchair for those with paralysis: All you need to know

An electric wheelchair for people with tetraplegia, a condition when patients are unable to move their upper or lower body, was designed by an Egyptian researcher

By Abdelrahman Omran

Egyptian researcher Abdelrahman Omran designed a wheelchair for people with tetraplegia which operates by receiving users’ brainwaves. Reuters

An electric wheelchair for people with tetraplegia, a condition when patients are unable to move their upper or lower body, has been designed by an Egyptian researcher Abdelrahman Omran, reported Reuters.

The device will help those with paralysis by using head movements or brainwaves to operate the chair.

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Inside the U.K. lab that connects brains to quantum computers


By Luke Dormehl

In a room at the United Kingdom’s University of Plymouth, a Ph.D. student is sitting at a computer, eyes closed as if he’s meditating. On his head is what looks like a black swimming cap, but is actually an electroencephalogram (EEG) reader that’s sensing the electrical activity passing over his scalp. In front of him, on the monitor, there’s an image of a wireframe globe with two points marked “1” and “0.” In the center of the globe, like a clock with a single hand, is an arrow that oscillates between the two points. As the student changes his expression from one of relaxation to one of wide-eyed agitation, the arrow twitches and moves. Every several seconds, he enters a new digit.

It might not look like much (and right now, it’s still very early days for this work), but it’s nonetheless fascinating stuff. As the student changes his brain patterns from calm to energized and back again, he produces alpha and beta waves that are then used to manipulate simulated qubits – the elemental unit in quantum computing, reflecting the math of quantum physics – using nothing more than the power of thought.

“If you train yourself to produce these two kinds of waves, then you can send some sort of Morse code to the computer,” professor Eduardo Miranda of the University of Plymouth told Digital Trends. “The problem is that it takes eight seconds to generate one command at the moment because the EEG is very slow. We need a lot of processing to analyze it. And this analysis is not so accurate, so we need to keep checking many times to see if the code really is what the person wants to produce.”

Welcome to the somewhat shaky, tentative steps of the world of quantum programming by way of brain-computer interface. According to its creators, it’s the start of construction of what the team calls the Quantum Brain Network (abbreviated to QBraiN). And it’s got the potential to do a bunch of things that are worth getting excited about.

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Paralysed man sends tweet using only his mind after microchip installed in brain

In the “first direct-thought tweet,” the patient said “Hello World” 

By Leigh Mcmanus

In what the company behind the technology is calling the “first direct-thought tweet,” the patient said “Hello World,” using the implantable brain computer interface, or microchip.

A paralysed man has become the first person to tweet a message to the world using only direct thought. 

The feat was pulled off by Philip O’Keefe – a motor neurone disease patient – using a microchip implant that picks up his brain signals.

It’s been described as the “first direct-thought tweet” after Mr O’Keefe said said “Hello World” using the brain implant.

Synchron, a brain computer interface company, announced a Twitter takeover by Philip O’Keefe on December 23rd. 

He is one of the patients implanted with computer company Synchron’s Stentrode brain computer interface, or in other words, a microchip in his body that analyses his brain signals and helps carry out commands.

Mr O’Keefe is the first person to successfully message the world on social media directly through thought, Synchron said.

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Elon Musk’s Neuralink wants to embed microchips in people’s skulls and get robots to perform brain surgery

By Isobel Asher Hamilton

  • Neuralink is one of Elon Musk’s strange and futuristic portfolio of companies.
  • Neuralink developing neural interface technology — a.k.a. putting microchips into people’s brains.
  • The technology could help study and treat neurological disorders. 

Elon Musk is known for his high-profile companies like Tesla and SpaceX, but the billionaire also has a handful of unusual ventures. One them, he says, he started to one day achieve “symbiosis” between the human brain and artificial intelligence.

Neuralink is Musk’s neural interface technology company. The company is building a device that could be embedded in a person’s brain, where it could both record brain activity and potentially stimulate it. Musk has compared the technology to a “FitBit in your skull.”

While Musk likes to talk up his futuristic vision for the technology, the tech has plenty of near-term potential medical applications.

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New York company gets jump on Elon Musk’s Neuralink with brain-computer interface in clinical trials

Elon Musk might be well positioned in space travel and electric vehicles, but the world’s second-richest person is taking a backseat when it comes to a brain-computer interface (BCI).

New York-based Synchron announced Wednesday that it has received approval from the Food and Drug Administration to begin clinical trials of its Stentrode motor neuroprosthesis – a brain implant it is hoped could ultimately be used to cure paralysis. 

The FDA approved Synchron’s Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) application, according to a release, paving the way for an early feasibility study of Stentrode to begin later this year at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital.

New York-based Synchron announced Wednesday that it has received FDA approval to begin clinical trials of Stentrode, its brain-computer interface, beating Elon Musk’s Neuralink to a crucial benchmark.

The study will analyze the safety and efficacy of the device, smaller than a matchstick, in six patients with severe paralysis.

Meanwhile, Musk has been touting Neuralink, his brain-implant startup, for several years—most recently showing a video of a monkey with the chip playing Pong using only signals from its brain.

However, the company reportedly has been plagued by setbacks and unrealistic timelines. 

‘The approval of this IDE reflects years of safety testing performed in conjunction with FDA,’ Synchron CEO Thomas Oxley said in the release. 

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Inbrain Neuroelectronics Believes Its Chips Could Outperform Elon Musk’s Neuralink

By Nica Osorio  
KEY POINTS

  • Elon Musk’s Neuralink has a new competitor
  • It’s a startup company called Inbrain Neuroelectronics
  • It says its chips are made of one of the strongest materials ever tested
  • It aims to cure brain disorders using its technology

A Spanish startup company called Inbrain Neuroelectronics believes its chips could outperform Neuralink, Elon Musk’s brainchild.

In April, Musk said that Neutralink, which develops brain-machine interfaces, could transition from implanting chips in monkeys to embedding them in humans within 2021. But Inbrain Neuroelectronics, which specializes in brain implants made of graphene, thinks its chip could do better.

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Brain-Computer Interface Smashes Previous Record for Typing Speed

By Emily Waltz

The ancient art of handwriting has just pushed the field of brain-computer interface (BCI) to the next level. Researchers have devised a system that allows a person to communicate directly with a computer from his brain by imagining creating handwritten messages. The approach enables communication at a rate more than twice as fast as previous typing-by-brain experiments. 

Researchers at Stanford University performed the study on a 65-year-old man with a spinal cord injury who had had an electrode array implanted in his brain. The scientists described the experiment recently in the journal Nature

“The big news from this paper is the very high speed,” says Cynthia Chestek, a biomedical engineer at the University of Michigan, who was not involved in the study. “It’s at least half way to able-bodied typing speed, and that’s why this paper is in Nature.”

For years, researchers have been experimenting with ways to enable people to directly communicate with computers using only their thoughts, without verbal commands, hand movement, or eye movement. This kind of technology offers a life-giving communication method for people who are “locked in” from brainstem stroke or disease, and unable to speak. 

Successful BCI typing-by-brain approaches so far typically involve a person imagining moving a cursor around a digital keyboard to select letters. Meanwhile, electrodes record brain activity, and machine learning algorithms decipher the patterns associated with those thoughts, translating them into the typed words. The fastest of these previous typing-by-brain experiments allowed people to type about 40 characters, or 8 words, per minute.

That we can do this at all is impressive, but in real life that speed of communication is quite slow. The Stanford researchers were able to more than double that speed with a system that decodes brain activity associated with handwriting. 

In the new system, the participant, who had been paralyzed for about a decade, imagines the hand movements he would make to write sentences. “We ask him to actually try to write—to try to make his hand move again, and he reports this somatosensory illusion of actually feeling like his hand is moving,” says Frank Willett, a researcher at Stanford who collaborated on the experiment. 

A microelectrode array implanted in the motor cortex of the participant’s brain records the electrical activity of individual neurons as he tries to write. “He hasn’t moved his hand or tried to write in more than ten years and we still got these beautiful patterns of neural activity,” says Willett.

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