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Carnegie Mellon researchers develop noninvasive mind-controlled robotic arm

A team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, in collaboration with the University of Minnesota, has made a breakthrough in the field of noninvasive robotic device control, the university reports.
Using a noninvasive brain-computer interface (BCI), researchers have developed a successful mind-controlled robotic arm exhibiting the ability to continuously track and follow a computer cursor, according to the article.

Being able to noninvasively control robotic devices using only thoughts will have broad applications, in particular benefiting the lives of paralyzed patients and those with movement disorders, the article states.

BCIs have been shown to achieve good performance for controlling robotic devices using only the signals sensed from brain implants. Until now, however, BCIs successful in continuously controlling robotic arms have used invasive brain implants. These implants require a substantial amount of medical and surgical expertise to correctly install and operate, according to the article.
 
A grand challenge in BCI research is to develop less invasive or even totally noninvasive technology that would allow paralyzed patients to control their environment or robotic limbs using their own “thoughts.” Such noninvasive BCI technology, if successful, would bring such much-needed technology to numerous patients and even potentially to the general population.
 
However, BCIs that use noninvasive external sensing, rather than brain implants, receive “dirtier” signals, leading to lower resolution and less precise control. Thus, when using only the brain to control a robotic arm, a noninvasive BCI doesn't stand up to using implanted devices. Despite this, BCI researchers have forged ahead, their eye on the prize of a less- or non-invasive technology that could help patients everywhere on a daily basis.
 
Bin He, department head and professor of biomedical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, is achieving that goal of brain control technology, one key discovery at a time, according to the article. He is BMES member.

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