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Scientists Programming Robots To Become 'More Natural Extension Of Us'

7 March 2017, 6:57 am EST By Steve Bowman Tech Times
Researchers from MIT’s CSAIL and Boston University have created a system which will enhance the usage of robots. Electroencephalography caps are being used to control machines with the help of the human mind.  ( MITCSAIL | YouTube )

Controlling robots by nothing other than the human mind sounds like something straight out of a science fiction book. Previous efforts which were made to build a human and robot symbiosis ended in failure.

A small percentage of efforts have succeeded but were restricted to prosthetics. However, a slew of discoveries have been made which can improve the usage of robots and have now even allowed for actual mind control.

Robots Which Can Be Controlled By The Human Mind

A group at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligent Laboratory (CSAIL) department and researchers at Boston University have collaborated to create what they are calling a response system.

This system involves an electroencephalography (EEG) cap which can be worn over the head. This cap captures brain movements and transports them to the robot in a few seconds.

"Imagine being able to instantaneously tell a robot to do a certain action, without needing to type a command, push a button or even say a word," stated Daniela Rus, the Director.

This study involved the use of a robot called Baxter. The robot was ordered to assemble paint cans among the spools of wire.

The major highlight of this system is the method by which the robot can understand the human controller's thoughts even without the individual having to modify its normal thought process.

If any error is detected by the controller, that detection is passed on to the robot, allowing it to rectify itself from making similar mistakes in the future.

Researchers involved brain signals known as error related potentials (ErrPs) in this study to make it more natural. These signals are generated automatically in the human mind every time the person notices a mistake taking place.

Future Prospects

Earlier studies using EEG-controlled robots used to involve training of the human controllers. During the training, the controller was asked to think in a certain way which would help the computer or machine to understand their thoughts.

The disadvantage of this training was that the process of modulating the controller's thoughts was tiring. With the help of this study, robots would be able to perform binary actions like entity sorting and the researchers think that this research can lead to more discoveries.

According to them, the bots have the capability to become a more standard addition to human beings. If the capacity to manage machines becomes more spontaneous, then it can lead to improvement in supervising factory robots and controlling prosthetics or even cars.

Only time will tell what innovations lie ahead in the field of robotics, which would invariably lead to everyday use of these technological marvels.

Check out the video of the research which was conducted using the technology.

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