A stunning video from Johns Hopkins University shows a successful demonstration of a brain-reading robot feeding a quadriplegic patient.
"It's pretty cool," said patient Robert "Buz" Chmielewski, "I wanted to be able to do more of it,"
Surgeons inserted 6 electrode arrays on both sides of his brain, with a brain-machine interface that was established by APL, and within months he was able to show simultaneous tracking of two of the prosthetic limbs.
The project was led by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Chmielewski experienced a 10-hour brain surgeon at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, and leveraged state of the art prothetic participants from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. The purpose was to allow participants to track aids and to sense physical sensations utilizing neuro-signals of the brain.
In the first year of the evaluation, participants were pleased with Buz's success and hoped to continually explore the boundaries of what could be done. The team initiated a parallel investigative line, dubbed "Smart Prosthetics."
The team is creating an interloop device which combines artificial intelligence, robotics and a bridge between the brain and the computer. In Chmielewski's dessert, the machine found it easy to regulate the motions used to cut the food using a fork and knife and to feed himself.
"Our ultimate goal is to make activities such as eating easy to accomplish, having the robot do one part of the work and leaving the user, in this case Buz, in charge of the details: which food to eat, where to cut, how big the cut piece should be," clarified Handelman, a senior APL robot trained in human computer teams. "By combining brain-computer interface signals with robotics and artificial intelligence, we allow the human to focus on the parts of the task that matter most."
Tenore, an APL neuroscientist and principal investigator for Smart Prothesis Study said that the next steps in this endeavor involve not only increasing Buz' amount and styles of everyday life events, but also providing him additional sensual input when he carries out tasks such that he does not have to depend upon vision to be able to rely.
"The idea is that he'd experience this the same way that uninjured people can 'feel' how they're tying their shoelaces, for example, without having to look at what they're doing," Tenore said.
Buz commented on the relevance of this study among those with reduced mobility in an interview just before Thanksgiving—the traditionnal start of a high-fuel holidays. Disabilities like his take away the independence of an individual, he said, especially their own food capacity.
"A lot of people take that for granted," he added. "To be able to do this independently and still be able to interact with family is a game-changer."