Mind-Controlled Robots Coming Closer

Mind-Controlled Robots Coming Closer

Editor’s Note:
In the following article, readers might recognize Kawada Industries’ HRP-2 Promet, a 154cm, 58kg robot built in cooperation with AIST (Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology) and Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) as part of a wider Humanoid Robotics Project. While still used for a variety of research, including the ongoing project described below, it was first made public in 2002. Readers might also be interested to know that this robot, ASIMO, and SCHAFT, the now Google-owned rescue and recovery humanoid, are all descendants of Honda’s P3 humanoid robot, which debuted in 1997.

• • •

How would you like to own a robot companion that you could control with your mind?
A team of researchers at a Japanese-French joint robotics lab (CNRS-AIST Joint Robotics Laboratory) are getting a step closer to developing a humanoid robot that can be controlled using brain-computer interfaces (BCI).

The setup is comprised of four parts: a human being, an electrode cap designed to read and transmit brainwave patterns, a signal processor that translates the brain signals into commands that a robot can comprehend, and the humanoid bot itself.

To control the robot, an individual sits before a computer screen that shows a series of flashing arrows. As the user stares at a particular arrow, the signal processor picks up which one is being focused upon and sends a command to the robot. Because the robot has been preprogrammed, it will respond by walking in the direction indicated, so by staring at an arrow pointing to the left, the user makes the robot walk in that direction.

The research, located at AIST’s Intelligent Systems Research Institute in Tsukuba, Japan, aims to allow a human being the feeling of embodiment within a humanoid robot. As well as following directions, the robot can respond to basic instructions stimulated by the user focusing on predefined objects. For example, if the individual wearing the electrode cap looks at the image of a book, the robot will be instructed to fetch a book.

The potential applications for this technology are huge. Once the BCI system has become more sophisticated, including motion control, task planning, and reactive behavior control, the robot could empower a paralyzed individual with autonomy by means of a mind-controlled robotic assistant. As well as in assistive healthcare, the robots could also be used to enable astronauts or factory workers for perform complex tasks.

Japanese Robotics News & Tech Coverage

• • •

Contributor Daniel Faggella is the founder of TechEmergence, a news and advice website specifically for entrepreneurs and investors interested in the intersection of technology and psychology. He first saw Hiroshi Ishiguro's work in 2013, and has been fascinated with Japan's progress in human-robot interface ever since.

Resources VIA AIST