Mind-Controlled Artificial Limbs Fusing Man and Machine Coming Next Year

By Adam Mann
November 28, 2012 | 3:02 pm

By Liat Clark, Wired UK

A postdoctoral student has developed a technique for implanting thought-controlled robotic arms and their electrodes directly to the bones and nerves of amputees, a move which he is calling “the future of artificial limbs”. The first volunteers will receive their new limbs early in 2013.

“The benefits have no precedent,” Max Ortiz Catalan, who carries out research in biomedicine and artificial intelligence at the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, told Wired.co.uk. “They will be able to simultaneously control several joints and motions, as well as to receive direct neural feedback on their actions. These features are today not available for patients outside research labs. Our aim is to change that.”

Ordinary myoelectric prostheses work by placing electrodes over the skin to pick up nerve signals that would ordinarily be sent by the brain to the limb. An algorithm then translates these signals, and sends instructions to motors within the electronic limb. Since the electrodes are applied to the skin surface, however, they will undoubtedly encounter countless issues in maintaining the fluid transferal of information back and forth between the brain and the limb. By implanting those electrodes directly to the patient’s nerves, Catalan is hoping to get one step closer than anyone else to replicating natural movement.

“Our technology helps amputees to control an artificial limb, in much the same way as their own biological hand or arm, via the person’s own nerves and remaining muscles,” he said.

Read more: Mind-Controlled Artificial Limbs Fusing Man and Machine Coming Next Year | Wired Science | Wired.com.

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