Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The "telepathic wheelchair"

I believe it is more fittingly called a "cybernetic wheelchair."  Or perhaps even "transhumanist transit."
Scientists at the Ecole Polytechnique Federal De Lausanne’s Institute of Bioengineering have developed a neuroprosthetic interface that does not connect to the mind via holes drilled into the skull (I guess maybe that's why it's not called cybernetic) and allows wheelchair users to move by thinking. The users' brain patterns are read through a series of EEG electrodes and are then translated into commands.  To move forward, the user would imagine walking forward.  The electrical signals the brain uses for moving one's feet are distinct from those used to turn one's head.  The interface can differentiate between these two and carry out the instructions accordingly.  There are also cameras interfaced at the sides of the chair, helping to steer around obstacles. 

This is the kind of thing I'm talking about.  Technology implemented to help people improve or in this case overcome what nature has dealt them.  Granted there is still a great deal of testing to be done before we see mass release of this sort of tech.  The article on the wheelchair talks of current difficulties in object recognition.  It would also not surprise me if other problems arise in the translating complex thoughts, such as backing out of a corner or more sophisticated movement than "go straight, go left."  But this is not dissuasive.  Those who currently suffer from total or partial paralysis may one day be able to overcome their circumstances in ways beyond originally thought.
Would love to see Graymalkin toolin' around in one of these someday.

UPDATE 9/15/2010: Graymalkin would like to add " I like the thought of having thought controlled devices, but it needs to be incorporated with intelligent sensor technology which will really be awesome.  Thinking ‘fridge’ or ‘tv’ or ‘bathroom’ and having the wheelchair just take you to the correct remembered location would be pretty sweet technology for some disabled people."

He would also recommend the following add-ons to the telepathic wheelchair:

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