Monday, May 28, 2012

Paralyzed Woman Steers Robotic Arms With Mind And Sips Coffee

cathy getting a sip of coffee from a bottle held by a robotic arm.

Once there was a time when being paralyzed was a death sentence, however this may no longer be the truth. Recent breakthroughs in robotic and neural interface technology have opened a doorway for those once paralyzed. A paralyzed women name Cathy is a prime example of how modern technology is making what was once though Impossible, possible.

It starts with a simple computer chip that is inserted and planted into the brain of a paralyzed person. The chip is stocked full of software and computer recognized algorithms that have been programmed to interpret neural waves and respond accordingly. The instructions are then sent to a robotic arm that interprets the commands and acts it out. In recent trials the brain-controlled robotic arm lifted and moved a glass of water into a paralyzed women's reach so that she could sip from it, something she has been unable to do on her own for the past fifteen years.

Many tests of similar nature have been done on lab animals and have proven successful, however, this is the first time a lab trial with a human has resulted in success in real time space. Previously lab trials have been successful in computing thoughts into moving a computer cursor, however with this breakthrough all past achievements pale in comparison. However the company behind this amazing breakthrough, BrainGate, has advised it will be some time before this technology makes it outside the lab.

In the current design the computer sensor is attached to a mini-sized computer that is connected with a mess of wires. Making the system wireless is the team’s first long term goal. The research team hopes that within a decade the BrainGate device will be available for everyone with a disability at a price that will be affordable. They are also in the works of bringing this functionality to prosthetic limbs in the same time frame.
Here is a video of Cathy moving steering a robotic arm: 

The movements of the device are still clunky and not efficient enough to be used outside of the lab. However, the main goal of the test was to use the software and brain-chip in partnership so that they would work in real time. With the breakthrough of this success it has catapulted the time-frame and feasibility of technology of the same nature being commonplace forward by decades.
It is more than likely that within the next few decades we will see technology of the same nature it every part of life. Prosthetic limbs will have the capability and functionality of their real counterparts. Patients with full body disability will have control of robotic parts that they can then use as if it was an extension of their body. As technology of this nature keeps jumping forward the boundary between man and machine continues to grow smaller.
This guest post has been written by blogger Kathleen Hubert. Kathleen is a blogger who writes on a variety of different sites. Check out more of her work at

Source: Arstechnica, Gizmodo

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Circus Challenge: Video Games For Stroke Victims

man holding motion sensing controllers in both hands
Image source: Engadget
 It is often a challenge to retrain the brain to control a weakened limb after a stroke. It is not an impossible task, but it usually takes months to get success. In order to help speed up this process, and to make it more fun and interesting, Limbs Alive and scientists at Newcastle University have come up with a set of video games called Circus Challenge , thus providing extra in-home therapy.

This set of games has been specifically designed for people with Hemiplegia, however the target audience is anyone who needs to better their
screenshot of the game
Image source: Limbs Alive
 motor skills. These games consist primarily of circus games that require the use of both hands to perform tasks that would let them advance and reach higher levels. The patients use motion sensing controllers  (think wii remote) to perform circus activities like throwing pies, teetering, lion taming, juggling, high diving, and trapeze work to name a few. The more they advance in the games, the more challenging the tasks become and require greater coordination and strength.

The game would be available later this year and can be played on PCs, laptops, and tablets using motion sensing controllers (hopefully someone would come up with a Kinect hack too?). To find out when these games would be launched, go to Limbs Alive's Contact Us page and sign up to get latest updates from them.

Watch the video to see what Circus Challenge can do!

Source:Limbs Alive via Engadget, Gizmodo