Robots Don't Wear Belts, Science!

Robots Don’t Wear Belts-Thought-Controlled Robots

It’s a fact that the human brain only uses ten percent of its true potential at any given time. Nah, I’m joking. That “fact” is complete bullshit. An apocryphal notion promulgated by bad science fiction writers looking for some pseudo-scientific reasoning that their characters can develop crazy mind powers out of nowhere. The subject of this Robots Don’t Wear Belts, however, promises to show you a cool new thing humans are learning to do with their brains that are firmly rooted in real science even though it might sound like an idea straight out of fiction: Thought-Controlled Robots.
Don’t get too excited though, it’s not as if you can just think at a robot and get it to obey any command. That kind of technology is still pretty far off if it’s even achievable at all. For now, the technology relies on a Brain-machine interface which directly links the user’s brain to a specific robot. These interface projects use electroencephalography (EEG) monitors to record brain activity then tune their robots actions to respond to certain types of readings which occur when the people attached to the EEG react to certain stimuli. When the technology was first being developed researchers focused primarily on providing the system with active inputs, meaning the humans would consciously try to elicit a response by concentrating on a specific stimulus like a light or a color. More recent projects have focused on passive instructions based on unconscious stimuli, in other words using the human’s reaction to the robot’s actions to correct its behavior. Both active and passive systems have seen some recent success.
On the active front, a group of researchers in Isreal were able to use a man’s thoughts to activate nanobots in a cockroach whenever the man thought about math. This is a big step forward in medical technology. If we can attune nanobots to a patient’s brainwaves then those nanobots can release needed medications when they detect specified changes in brain states. This could help instantaneously address the needs of patients suffering from various mental health conditions.
Looking at the passive input side of the equation, researchers from MIT have set up a system where their interface can communicate a human’s disagreement to their robot and force the robot to adjust its behavior. So far they can only do this with simple object sorting tasks, but with a reaction time measured in milliseconds, it seems promising that the system can learn more complicated tasks and still have a near instantaneous reaction.
While it is clear that this technology still has a ways to go, the possibilities seem almost unlimited. Perhaps the biggest limitation lies not with the technology by with the biology. There is still so much we don’t know about the human brain that it may take a few breakthroughs in neurology to finally take this technology from the world of science fiction to science fact.

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