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Thu, May 25, 2006 - Page 10 News List

New technology uses brain signals to direct robots


ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories director Mitsuo Kawato, right, and Honda Research Institute Japan president Tomohiko Kawanabe flash V-signs as a robot hand also shows the sign in Tokyo yesterday. Honda and ATR have developed a new ``brain machine interface'' that can manipulate a robot using brain signals.


Japanese automaker Honda has developed technology that uses brain signals to control a robot's moves, hoping to someday link a person's thoughts with machines in everyday life.

In the future, the technology that Honda Motor Co has developed with ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories may substitute for a keyboard or cellphone or help people with spinal injuries be able to move their limbs, researchers said yesterday.

In a video demonstration in Tokyo, patterns of the changes in the brain taken by an MRI machine, like those used in hospitals, were relayed to a robotic hand.

A person in the MRI machine made a fist, spread his fingers and then made a V-sign. Several seconds later, the robotic hand made the same movements. Further research would be needed to decode more complex movements.

The machine for reading the brain patterns would also have to become smaller and lighter -- like a cap that people can wear as they move about, said ATR researcher Yukiyasu Kamitani.

What Honda calls a "brain-machine interface" is an improvement over past ways, such as those that required the brain to be opened surgically to connect to wires.

Other ways that didn't require such surgery still had to train people in ways to send brain signals or weren't very accurate in reading the signals, Kamitani said.

Honda officials said that the latest research was important not only for developing intelligence for the company's walking bubble-headed robot, Asimo, but also for future auto technology.

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