Robots that are controlled by the human mind may be able to help workers in the field of advanced manufacturing, according to a US researcher from the University of Buffalo (UB).
Phys.org reports that a team led by Thenkurussi "Kesh" Kesavadas, PhD, UB professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and director of UB's Virtual Reality Laboratory is exploring technology known as brain-computer interface (BCI) devices.
According to Kesavadas, while the team is just starting to explore ideas of how the technology could be used, there is potential in fields such as manufacturing and medicine.
In the case of manufacturing, Kesavadas says that BCI-controlled devices could be used to leverage the decision making skills of workers. For example, they could help identify faulty parts in an assembly line.
In addition, Kesavadas says they could help reduce the boredom associated with repetitive tasks and improve safety and productivity.
A doctoral student from the team at UB was able, after a few days training, to use the device to control a robotic arm and make it insert a wooden peg into a hole and rotate the peg.
BCI devices work by reading electrical signals from the brain and transmitting them wirelessly to a computer which, in turn, sends them to a robot. The technology generally involves a head piece, worn like a hat.
The UB is not alone in developing this new technology. Research is being done by others, including an EU-funded project called Brain2Robot ('A Robotic-Arm Orthosis Controlled by Electroencephalography and Gaze for Locked-In Paralytics').
These researchers, who see the viability of the technology for providing extra independence for severely paralysed people, also successfully trained participants to move a BCI-controlled device.