An international team of researchers, working on the Virtual Embodiment and Robotic Re-embodiment project, have used functional magnetic resonance imagery to scan the brain of a university student as he imagined moving different parts of his body. The researchers hope to eventually provide people with the ability to embody a robot hundreds of miles away using thought alone.
Bar-Ilan University researchers first ran the student through several training stages in which he attempted to direct a virtual avatar by thinking of moving his hands and legs. The commands were sent via an Internet connection to a small robot at the Beziers Technology Institute. The system enabled the student to control the robot in near real time with his thoughts, while a camera on the robot's head allowed him to see from the robot's perspective. The researchers are fine-tuning the algorithm to look for patterns in brain activity instead of just the active areas, which will enable each thought process to control a greater range of movements.
"I think it is very impressive and in the broadest sense reflects where it is that we are trying to get to in enabling communication in patients who are deemed to be locked in or even vegetative," says University of Western Ontario's Adrian Owen.
From New Scientist
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