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.