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Archive for the ‘robotics’ Category

Matching brain signals with prosthetics – algorithmically

Posted by evolvingwheel on October 4, 2007

I do remember the robot from Will Smith’s I Robot (2004), where the android moves its arm with unimaginable degrees of freedom. The artificial machine is capable of translating its wishes by communicating effectively with its mechanical appendages. Brain (central intelligence system) signals are decoded and converted into mechanical actions. One of the researchers from MIT has embarked on one such project of creating these movements in artificial prosthetics by decoding neural commands from the brain.

Laxminarayan Srinivasan has developed an algorithm that will enable a prosthetic device to move according to neural signals [read article here]. People who often loose their arms or limbs from accidents or paralysis are still able to think and manifest their intentions from the brain. The challenge is to interpret their intentions that originate as neural signals and match them with the mode of action sought. Then make the prosthetic device operate accordingly. The researcher and his team have developed an algorithm that matches such recorded signals with different archived mechanical actions and then instruct the machine to behave. Presumably, a lot of work needs to be done in understanding the nature of the neural transmission associated with the movements of our arms and limbs. The algorithm processes the signal modalities and all its subtle variations in stimulation and then appropriately connects the command with the action code. A highly robust library of actions and a very sensitive and critical recorder of signals. blog_irobot.jpg

With a very difficult task in hand, Srinivasan aspires to build a unifying model of decoding in the coming years.

These kind of activities will one day lead to artificial movements very close to the natural ones. The difference between science fiction and reality is TIME. As we develop smart interfaces and recording devices for neural signals, and are able to interpret their messages, the closer we will get in understanding the motor behaviors related to such signals. My forecast is over the next decade industry will focus on developing such interfaces and creating small prosthetics that use AI to learn and develop actions from the recorded signals. A very burgeoning area of bio-engineering.


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Smart robots to help humans

Posted by evolvingwheel on September 12, 2007

Consider this – your grandfather, 80+, lives alone. He gets up in the early morning for his first dose of pills. However, his frail knees prevent him from getting off the bed right away and walk to the bathroom cabinet… he has forgotten to keep the pills by bedside last night. How does he get help? Well, he has a smart robot called Zen at home. As he calls Zen and asks it to get the pills, Zen follows the command, rolls to the bathroom, opens the cabinet, grabs the right bottle, and brings it back to your grandfather.

Intelligent robots are being designed that will soon find their way to our homes. If not in the immediate future, definitely in the distant future, and if I am luckily wrong, then may be within next 5-10 years. Researchers in Japan, which is considered the powerhouse of industrial robots, are vehemently trying to bring such smart robots that would be able to perform several daily chores in absence of human labor. Scientists are eying the possibility of helping a growing elderly population with these smart robots. You may read the full [article here].

As I was mentioning before in my Boeing Dreamliner post, there are all different kinds of sensors being manufactured that are capable of providing realtime knowledge of our surrounding environment – from ambient light intensity to odor and from heat to vibration. Smart algorithms coupled with these sensors in robots can make these objects more intelligent. They could be reactive decision makers on the basis of the surroundings and the requirement logic. These robots will then find their way not only as workers for doing daily household activities but also for commercial purposes. 

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