Sunday, 29 February 2004

Today's Brain Link

In more ways than one... an article in Popular Science summarising the state-of-the-art in linking brains with robotic prostheses. Money quote:
For decades scientists have pondered, speculated on, and pooh-poohed the possibility of a direct interface between a brain and a machine -- only in the late 1990s did scientists start learning enough about the brain and signal-processing to offer glimmers of hope that this science-fiction vision could become reality. Since then, insights into the workings of the brain -- how it encodes commands for the body, and how it learns to improve those commands over time -- have piled up at an astonishing pace, and the researchers at Duke studying the macaque and the robotic arm are at the leading edge of the technology. "This goes way beyond what's been done before," says neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis, co-director of the Center for Neuroengineering. Indeed, the performance of the center's monkeys suggests that a mind-machine merger could become a reality in humans very soon.
Nicolelis and his team are confident that in five years they will be able to build a robot arm that can be controlled by a person with electrodes implanted in his or her brain. Their chief focus is medical -- they aim to give people with paralyzed limbs a new tool to make everyday life easier. But the success they and other groups of scientists are achieving has triggered broader excitement in both the public and private sectors. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has already doled out $24 million to various brain-machine research efforts across the United States, the Duke group among them.
As someone should have said about financing Medical Research,
There's Gold in them thar Pills!
Sorry. Anyway, I've posted before on this subject, saying things like "this will happen soon". Now I can give a reasonable estimate of what "soon" means : Five Years.

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