A quadriplegic can eat thanks to a brain-machine interface


One man was able to control two robotic arms thanks to electrodes implanted in his brain. He was able to carry out complex tasks, such as cutting and eating pastry, thanks to shared control with preprogrammed gestures.

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For now, the human-machine interface is often limited to physical tools, such as a keyboard or mouse. However, there are already ways to interact with a computer through thought. Futura-Sciences met Maureen Clerc, researcher at Inria (National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation), during her talk at TEDxCannes, so that she could tell us more.

The brain-machine interfacesor some electrodes are found in the brain to control devices or robots, they represent one of the most promising solutions to assist people with disabilities, especially if they cannot use their hands and arms. However, the use of robotic arms poses a problem due to the complexity of the manipulations required.

The researchers of theJohns Hopkins University, in the United States, have managed to get around this problem. Their solution allowed a paralyzed man to feed himself using two robotic arms. Following an injury to the vertebral columnthe subject only kept a slight movements in his shoulders, elbows and wrists. The researchers implanted a array of electrodes in the sensorimotor regions of sound brainespecially those that correspond to his arms.

Semi-autonomous robotic arms

Where this solution differs from other research on the subject is the shared control of robotic arms. Instead of requiring the human to guide each movement, they divided the activities into steps and programmed the robot to automatically perform certain movements. This made it possible to control the 12 degrees of freedom of the robotic arms with just four gestures recorded by the implanted electrodestwo per arm.

The man was thus able to drive the robotic arms, equipped with a knife and fork, to cut a puff pastry and bring it to the mouth, a task that had previously been cut into 13 steps. This solution only allows you to perform a limited number of pre-programmed activities, but it may already help paralyzed people regain greater independence.

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