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Robotics Science

The Future of Mind Control of Physical Objects 176

Posted by kdawson
from the somewhere-norbert-is-smiling dept.
mattnyc99 writes A month ago we discussed the accomplishment when researchers got monkeys to feed themselves with a robotic arm controlled by their brains. But after all the recent successful experiments with brain-computer interfaces, will the technology ever make it out of the lab and into hospitals — or even into our hands, for the closest thing imaginable to The Force? Popular Mechanics takes a look at the future of mind-machine control, speculating on several theoretical applications once brains can adapt to devices via direct communication between, say, synapse and prosthetic. Quoting the field's leading neuroscientist: 'For the foreseeable future, the main benefit is for rehabilitation. But the research is showing that the brain can act independently of the body. One day, you could be sitting in an office and controlling a device from across the room — or in another building. And it's not just flicking a switch. It could be a nanotool that's moving through a tiny environment, and you can control it and see what it's seeing.'"
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The Future of Mind Control of Physical Objects

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  • With the assistance of my arms and hands, I find my mind can control all sorts of physical objects very easily.

    • Ha ha! That's funny. When I'm old, and my body is good for nothing, just rip out my brain, and wire it into a robot. Family get-togethers might be a bit weird... maybe I could get some cool upgrades?

      • by QuantumG (50515) *

        I'd rather have my body rejuvenated and enhanced than replace it with the shoddy technology of the 20th century.

        • by cp.tar (871488)

          I'd rather have my body rejuvenated and enhanced than replace it with the shoddy technology of the 20th century.

          Worry not! You will not have our body replaced with the shoddy technology of the 20th century.
          However, the shoddy technology of the 21st century is a wholly different matter.

          How would it feel to have a body with "Made in China" engraved on most of its parts?
          No, I do not want to test it on my biological body, thank you very much.
          It would be untrue, for one.
          Someone send me a Chinese girl!

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Z34107 (925136)

        Make sure they keep your ghost intact. But, I suspect this to happen with increasing frequency as we approach a Stand Alone Complex...

      • Maybe you could start with some ear pods [cybusindustries.net]?
    • With the assistance of my arms and hands, I find my mind can control all sorts of physical objects very easily.

      Just be careful of not shortcircuiting the neural interface, or we could get in serious trouble [imdb.com] :)

      • Getting a set of robot arms like that came to mind very quickly for me. Imagine when we see construction workers using a set of those instead of some other heavy equipment for the job.

    • by mrbluze (1034940) on Monday July 07, 2008 @08:29PM (#24092973) Journal

      With the assistance of my arms and hands, I find my mind can control all sorts of physical objects very easily.

      Would all those present who have telekinesis, please raise my right hand.

  • Cool I guess (Score:2, Insightful)

    by UseCase (939095)
    Considering we are just now getting to the point where gesture/Multi touch UIs are becoming usable, I am a bit skeptical of the whole Jean grey UI thing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by peragrin (659227)

      more like the lantian interface from stargate.
      fighter pilots could focus on their targets to guide missiles in, select which targets to fire upon, etc.

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        FA18's can already do this.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)
        You can already do this with pupil tracking today. And actually, you can do it at home with camtrack or some piece of software for windows-only intended for gaming head-look whose name I forget, but that's head-tracking and pupil-tracking is much more natural and probably far more useful in a fighter jet.
  • Futurama (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Forrest Kyle (955623) on Monday July 07, 2008 @06:14PM (#24091463) Homepage
    If I had the option, I would opt to have my brain placed in a jar attached to a robot body in the event that my heart gave out or something.

    I have to imagine there is someway to keep the brain alive chemically. If an artifical blood-like fluid could be manufactured that carried oxygen and nutrients to the brain, and some sort of electro-stimulus interface could transmit visual and audio data, it seems plausible (in a cartoonishly plausible way) that we could survive the deaths of our bodies and live on for several more decades as purely intellectual beings; an existence I would enjoy almost as much as my current existence. And don't get the impression that I'm willing to discard my body because I'm hopelessly fat and sedentary. I love my body. I have a black belt, I workout out at the gym, and I am physically active. But when those capabilities go away, I would love to live on and experience the intellectual future.
    • You'd be so bored you'd want to die.

      • by khallow (566160)
        You base this on what evidence?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by RulerOf (975607)

        You'd be so bored you'd want to die.

        Presumably, if this were a possibility, you'd also be able to stimulate the part of your brain that makes you so incredibly happy that you wouldn't care you were, well, just a brain.

        Read up on The Hedonistic Imperative [hedweb.com], just in case you don't understand.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by sexconker (1179573)

          And if you're into hedonism then your intellectual pursuits would presumably take a back seat.

          Yeah - I can get all hopped up on the crack cocaine. I could even do it 24/7 (or until I died, same thing in effect). I bet even the highest crack head would get bored at some point. There's a reason why hard drugs lead to harder drugs.

          You'd need to keep stimulating your happy fun zone to just get to normal. And then you'd have to crank up the voltage/dosage. And crank it up some more. And then you wouldn't b

      • by vertinox (846076)

        You'd be so bored you'd want to die.

        World of Warcraft proves otherwise.

        I personally don't like WoW, but I'm just saying it doesn't take much to entertain people for hundreds if not thousands of hours per year.

        • by Ihmhi (1206036)

          You'd be so bored you'd want to die.

          World of Warcraft proves otherwise.

          I personally don't like WoW, but I'm just saying it doesn't take much to entertain people for hundreds if not thousands of hours per year.

          Well at least I'd feel right at home playing the Undead...

          It'd be hard when my guild wanted to get onto Ventrilo, though.

          "Hey dude, why do you sound like Stephen Hawking?"

    • Re:Futurama (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MyLongNickName (822545) on Monday July 07, 2008 @08:09PM (#24092815) Journal

      And what would happen if something happened to the input/output sensory link? You could be in a vat of this chemical keeping your brain alive forever. And no sensory input. It would be worse than being buried alive and it would last forever (or a very long time, at least).

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        A common fear, but it's not like they'd just put you in a jar and forget about you. For instance, it would be trivial to add a simple challenge/response test, and trigger an alarm on failure.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Or, someone could have it in for you :)

          • by drinkypoo (153816)
            Someone could have it in for you now, and just shoot you in the head, and then you wouldn't have any problems with your "sensory links". I'm pretty sure someone's already written a science fiction novel about that, anyway. Er, the brain in the jar thing, I mean. There's a whole genre about shooting people in the head.
      • by jez9999 (618189)

        That's ok, whenever the brains get tipped out of the jar in futurama they just lie on the ground still alive, usually shouting. I think the jar is just for decoration.

      • by vertinox (846076)

        You could be in a vat of this chemical keeping your brain alive forever. And no sensory input. It would be worse than being buried alive and it would last forever (or a very long time, at least).

        If you could master lucid dreaming, then it would be a paradise.

        Otherwise... You could always have someone check on you every now and then. Its not that hard. I suppose if the "brain in a jar" lifestyle did get popular, there would be facilities specifically for the care and storage of such persons like one has for

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Joe Tie. (567096)
      Sadly, the brain ages in the same way as any other part of the body. Even if you could keep it healthy, it'd still almost certainly die off of old age pretty soon after, and probably with senile dementia as an extra gift.
    • by JBHarris (890771)
      This makes me wish there was a (+0 Creepy).

      Brad
  • Nanotool? (Score:5, Funny)

    by HaeMaker (221642) on Monday July 07, 2008 @06:15PM (#24091475) Homepage

    That's not what she said.

  • I'm tired of scientests refusing to admit the full implications of their work. It hold back society and fosters an atmosphere of complacence. There is no reason at all, if it can be used to control a prosthetic, it can't be used for telepresence, using my computer [crunchgear.com], driving my car [wikipedia.org] or any thing else. Anything at all.
    • by vux984 (928602) on Monday July 07, 2008 @06:44PM (#24091857)

      I'm tired of scientests refusing to admit the full implications of their work.

      Its more a case that due to the astronomical cost, difficulty, and less than ideal results, for the forseeable future medical use is the only application where the cost isn't too high, and the risk is acceptable, and the clumsy results are still infinitely preferable to what's available otherwise.

      Long term sure, maybe we'll be operating our computer, car, and TV by thought. But nobody is going to pay $250,000+ for a system that lets them change the channel with an 80% accuracy of it getting it right.

      On the other hand, for someone paralyzed from the neck down... even clumsy control would be a godsend.

      • by AnalogyShark (1317197) on Monday July 07, 2008 @07:25PM (#24092345)
        I was thinking more along the lines of the military when he said the implications. We already have planes that can fly without a pilot (UAVs). If a person could wholly be inside a plane mentally (in a sense), imagine the increased control one could have, without the limitations of G-forces on a pilot's body or the fear of real death. And the military definately has the budget.
        • by guruevi (827432)

          They already do that in a sense with the UAV's. The controller has a screen (or multiple) where he/she can see what the sight is out of the UAV and they have a controller similar to what would be available if you would be sitting in what would be the cockpit for such device. That is fairly cheap and does it's job well, no brain-links necessary.

          The problem as mentioned many times before in these applications is that if you make missions more like a simulation/computer game than the real thing, there will bec

        • If a person could wholly be inside a plane mentally (in a sense), imagine the increased control one could have,

          We can do that now. If you think of the World War III Scenario, a major conflict in Europe. Piloted planes were to be flown on instruments. In europe the skies are not clear. Also with the speed of moderd planes you can't see the other plane except by instrumnets.

          I worked on the B1 bommer project. One interresting feature of the plane were the aluminum panels that could fitted to the insides of

          • by vux984 (928602)

            So now I ask what is the defference between flying inside a simulator in Kansas or in a real plan with blacked out windows except for the degree of risk to the crew. In both cases flying means punching in commands to an autopilot and reacting to various threats detected by instruments.

            The main difference is that the odds of losing your connection to the plane is far lower. Latency is considerably lower too.

        • Just remember, if you steal one of these brain drone thingies from the Russian military, you have to control it by thinking in Russian.
    • "Once you go down the lazy path forever will it dominate your desitny" - Yoda
    • People wont invest in something they thing is impossible. Tech illiterate believe that it is more reasonable to replace something (a leg) than control something different like a car. Legs people understand we mostl all have some so they assume hey thats doable. Truth that driving a car would be WAY easier doesn't really matter.

  • Not so fast... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wild_quinine (998562) on Monday July 07, 2008 @06:18PM (#24091547) Homepage
    About ten years ago I saw someone controlling a cursor (badly) on a computer screen using electrodes planted in a headband. Last couple of years it hasn't been much better and now they're shoving things right into the brain. Seems like the tech is going backwards if anything, and frankly until it is non-invasive I don't think it's going to catch on much - even in the medical field, even for those paralysed from the neck down, there are better options that getting wires in the brain.
    • by corsec67 (627446) on Monday July 07, 2008 @06:25PM (#24091633) Homepage Journal

      You mean like the OCZ's Brain Wave Interface Headband [slashdot.org] that was posted here a little over a month ago?

      No surgery, and it affords some control of the mouse cursor without any arm movement.

    • by Thought1 (1132989)
      Check out Emotiv [emotiv.com]. They've got a non-invasive headset with a full API that's good enough even for control of video games, among other things. I'm thinking that the "hard-wired" approach was intended to be linked to the researcher's comment of "primarily for rehabilitation", specifically, attempting to restore something that has already been physically lost.
      • Re:Not so fast... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by IdeaMan (216340) on Monday July 07, 2008 @06:48PM (#24091919) Homepage Journal

        Brain-computer interfaces need to be implanted and active before the child learns to speak. Some feedback needs to be given to the child in terms of flashing lights the child can see. Adults will take many years of training to approach what a child will learn during their early stages of development.

        I would hazard a guess that the most inane of enhancements will have the most impact. Instantaneous access to a simple calculator and 50 gigs of ram/flash storage alone would enable uncanny abilities in humans. The ability to carry on simultaneous conversations with N other similarly enhanced humans, or even the concept of conversation using wide symbols rather than very narrow and slow bandwidth communications protocols such as speech would also have a huge impact on society.

        This research has been going on for far too long with the squeamish ones of you holding it back waiting for non-invasive. Requiring non-invasive is like trying to build a Tempest device to access a computer inside a faraday cage instead of just putting in an Ethernet card and running a cable out.

        The number of uses an enhanced human will use the implant for will make the rest of us all look like deaf and dumb quadriplegics by comparison. Having an interface in place before an injury would greatly shorten the rehabilitation time of an unfortunate amputee.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sexconker (1179573)

          ?

          I have access to a simple calculator - it's my brain. It's quick, easy, and pretty damned accurate.

          I think I can store just a tad more data than 50 GB.

          I don't know about you, but I can already communicate pretty damned well with multiple people at once.

          A child does not learn such things quickly. There's a reason they teach cutting and gluing and writing and coloring and all that in preschool and kindergarten. Children lack motor skills. The brain takes a long time to develop them. How long was it befo

          • How long was it before you could hit a ball with a bat reliably?

            Error: question is based on a false premise.

          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            I have access to a simple calculator - it's my brain. It's quick, easy, and pretty damned accurate.

            It is a pathetic implement common to meatbags everywhere and utterly unsuited to rapidly calculating Pi to 100 digits (most of us can't store that many digits reliably) and using that value to do some useful work.

            I think I can store just a tad more data than 50 GB.

            You would think so, but unless you have eidetic recall, you are almost certainly incorrect; and furthermore, that data can only be transferred at the maximum rate at which you can speak, write, type, or otherwise express it.

            I don't know about you, but I can already communicate pretty damned well with multiple people at once.

            That's really not true; you can communicate to multiple people at once, but

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mailchandra (914582)
      One of the big issues with recording from the skull is the quality of the data. The skull attenuates the signals considerably and besides you have all sorts of artifacts from head motion etc.Anyway, there is yet reason to hope. Finding usable realtime data from noninvasive recordings is going to be very very difficult. The reason you do want to shove things or place electrodes in the brain is to improve the signal to noise of the recordings. With implanted electrodes in specific areas of the brain such as
      • Having said that, as electrodes become smaller and smaller, it should soon be possible to place electrodes a few microns thick inside the skull. Presumably in the future you will be able to have a USB like plug on your skull to control things. This is optimistically 10 - 15 years off in the future.

        Call me old fashioned, but no fucking way I'm getting one of those.

  • by DeadDecoy (877617) on Monday July 07, 2008 @06:19PM (#24091569)
    Just think of how inconvenient it would be to have a brain-controlled TV while having friends over. You'd either be fighting over the controls or the channels would switch to porn the second a commercial popped up.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by NovaHorizon (1300173)
      There's nothing inconvenient about the TV switching to porn during commercials..... ever..
      • by c6gunner (950153)

        Right. It could get a little awkward, though, when your 8 year old niece goes from watching "Dora the Explorer" to "Star Trek the Next Penetration".

        • you're sudden startle reflex though would change it to the Simpson's instantly, and coincidentally just in time for Homer to go "D'oh!"
  • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Monday July 07, 2008 @06:22PM (#24091601) Homepage Journal

    What if mastering a prosthetic interface is like learning to speak a language without an accent, something that's almost impossible to do as an adult?

    What if people who grew up before this technology gets perfected won't be able to compete in the workforce?

    • by halsver (885120) on Monday July 07, 2008 @06:52PM (#24091981)

      If working with many computer illiterate baby boomers has taught me anything, no. This won't ever be a problem.

      However, though I can perform research on the internet 5 times faster than most BBs by no means can I spell or do math in my head nearly as well as many of them. Not to mention my handwriting is terrible!

      What skills will be lost to people who rely on this future tech too much?

    • It will be more like dancing or martial arts.
      Learning to move your body (and it's individual parts) in a particular way.
      Doing a shitload of simple, repetitive exercises until you learn to do it with grace that makes it look natural.

      A note to whoever will be developing this technology:
      Making the training moves "danceable" (following a rhythm or a tune) will probably greatly reduce the duration of "the learning period".

    • by jez9999 (618189)

      What are the limits of brain plasticity?

      Ewwww, that's what they make plasticine from??

  • Ghost in the shell. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by plasmacutter (901737) on Monday July 07, 2008 @06:34PM (#24091733)

    Anyone interested in the dark side of direct neuro-prosthetic communication should watch ghost in the shell: stand alone complex.

    In this show, set in the near future (about 25 years from now), a common means of entry into enemy strongholds involves directly hacking people's motor functions and turning them into marionettes.

    A constant arms race is underway pitting entry vs "attack barrier" defenses which lash back against neuro-hackers and attempt to fry their brains.

    • I suppose it would be like an epileptic attack. If you did something like a DDOS attack, you'd run into the boundary that neurons can fire at most 3 times a second.

      Maybe the Borg started off as a very advanced MMORPG.

    • by EdZ (755139)
      And more interestingly, cyberbrains can enter and 'autistic mode', where all external connections are refused, negating the hacking problem. Also, checkout the first movie (and original manga) for some interesting discussion into the borders of 'humanity' when humans may not have any biological components left, and machines may be entirely biological in nature (or entirely bodiless).
    • by drinkypoo (153816)
      I've always imagined an external computer which connects to a conveniently located port. (heh heh) The only implanted hardware would be I/O devices. I don't want anything I can't detach physically to be connected to any of my senses.
  • reaction time (Score:2, Interesting)

    by NovaHorizon (1300173)
    So... the question becomes how long until the neural interface can create movement in an object in less then 1/7th of a second.

    Why do I ask that? Because 1/7th of a second is roughly how long it takes for an electric pulse from your brain to reach your fingers.

    Why is that important?

    First Person Shooters...

  • Other than the functional ability of moving my brain around from location A to location B and replicating, isn't the body more or less a tactile feedback machine for my brain more or less?

    I have always thought of my brain as being the little alien dude in Men In Black controlling that mechanical body.

  • In Sci Fi reading... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by skelly33 (891182) on Monday July 07, 2008 @06:47PM (#24091907)
    I'm in the middle of a novel by David Brin titled Earth. In it he describes a futuristic version of a human-machine interface called a "sub-vocal" which reacts to nervous impulses for speech before they turn into physical movement. He imagines that such a think only works for someone with a very clear mind and sharp focus because drifting thoughts may cause bad signals. In the story, this manifests as obscure commands to the interface and sometimes verbalizing thoughts that normally would have qualifies as "inner monologue".

    While it is only a story, the author is a real sharp cookie, and it seems quite plausible to me that hyper-sensitive electronics could go wonky if the operator were not 100% focused on them - and when are we really 100% focused on anything? I do not have total focus on driving if I'm conversing with someone, listening to music, or thinking about my day. Could obscure thoughts wreck my ming controlled car?
    • They call it Audeo. [newscientist.com]

      It was discussed here at Slashdot [slashdot.org] couple of months ago.

      • by skelly33 (891182)
        Wow - my post was rife with type-o's... was in a hurry (one more vote for post edit support here on /.!). Yeah I saw that Audeo thing when it was posted here, but when I watched the video it looked like the guy was actually moving muscles in his throat and neck. The version in the story sounds more like pure thought reception well ahead of muscle signals; the Audeo thing IS a way cool step forward though!
        • by Peeteriz (821290)

          Well, even if the device would decode the thoughts a second before the muscles react, I would imagine that the throat/neck muscles would move anyway - it's hard for people to 'disconnect' such reactions, if you are trying to "speak", then your speech-related areas of brain would move the muscles even if it's not neccessary, because you learned to do it that way in your childhood.

  • Am I... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sklyan (1263518) on Monday July 07, 2008 @06:50PM (#24091949)
    ...the only person who feels that the human thought patterns are too flakey and un-predictable to be put in this sort of situation. Anyone who has ever tried to take up meditation will tell you how frustrated, as well as surprised, they were to find out that you're really not in control of your thoughts as much as you would think.
    • by jez9999 (618189)

      Why would you think that you're very much in control of your thoughts? My thought pretty much define who I am and what I do, they 'are' me.

  • We don't have to limit ourselves to the physical world (think Neuromancer). A few years ago, a friend of mine showed me a tale (forgot the url, sorry) about a scientist creating 3D pictures and doing advanced CAD using a neural interface and a holographic display. Imagine not even needing a mouse pointer to modify a curve, but instead just imagining what the curve will look like. And of course, having realtime feedback.

    Add a little AI to it so you can tell the program what parameters to modify as you're molding the object being designed.

    Now imagine if you could program software this way using the a VR (and user-friendly) equivalent of UML.

    • Imagine not even needing a mouse pointer to modify a curve, but instead just imagining what the curve will look like.

      At that point, combined with fabbers, we'll be starting to get technology similar to the Krell's, in Forbidden Planet.

  • Let's see, scanning.....scanning....yep, not a single Borg or Krag reference.

    I'm looking forward to my brain being transplanted to a titanium frame so my life can continue as an evil overlord in the Technodrome.

  • by hedley (8715) <hedley@pacbell.net> on Monday July 07, 2008 @07:01PM (#24092101) Journal

    Don't be too quick to take a nap once that synapse parser starts getting the REM raw data. I would recommend a 'sleep' mode on that circuitry.

  • Shadowrun anyone? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Application of this technology has been designed to death in the cyberpunk literature! From replacement body parts, to mind-controlled drone vehicles, to full immersion VR. Skip Matrix, go directly to Snow Crash, get a Shadowrun Cybertech sourcebook on the way (Man & Machine or Arsenal).

  • Finally! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Monday July 07, 2008 @07:23PM (#24092339) Homepage Journal
    We will be completely freed from the destructive and dangerous effects of exercise and physical movement!
  • If in America : "Scientists have recently developed a handfree TV-remote-control, so now all you fat bastards don't have to waste those precious joules operating a regular remote.

    If in Japan : "Scientists have recently developed an obedient sexbot which knows exactly what you want; tentacles sold separately."
  • One Must Fall? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gringer (252588) on Monday July 07, 2008 @07:38PM (#24092507)

    All this talk about human assisted robots reminds me of a game I played back in my youth:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Must_Fall:_2097 [wikipedia.org]

  • You discover that eBay prices are suddenly all in "Quatloos"
  • Well, at least this partially explains why my (formerly always recoverable) Windows machine won't boot any more since I got my Mac. Could also be the dents in the motherboard from the baseball bat I suppose.
  • Flaunting Ignorance (Score:4, Informative)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @01:12AM (#24095987) Journal

    "...via direct communication between, say, synapse and prosthetic."

    No, don't say 'between synapse and prosthetic' because that's definitely not going to provide the information necessary to send a command of any kind. Synapses do not represent qualia (the 'quantum of thought'). Neurons don't either. It requires a softwired network of neurons to contain a single element of thought. Softwaired because all neurons are hard wired to all others with a maximum separation of 6 synapses, the average being 3. The neurons not required for a particular qualia are prevented from participating in synchronized firing. The result is 10^3 to 10^5 neurons firing together. All those neurons participate in other of such functional networks at other times, the difference being the addition of some neurons that weren't in the first network. Sometimes many of the neurons in one functional network participate together in another but the second collection represents a very different thought, feeling, etc.

    The interested can read up on it in "The Organization of Behavior" by Donald O. Hebb (for which those functional networks are named: Hebbian cellular assemblies). Just the first chapter. Hebb himself said everything necessary is there, and all the subsequent chapters expand on it. I'm taking potshots at Popular Mechanics not for being a poor source of informed neuroscience, but because they've had plenty of time to do their background research but obviously didn't. Hebb's book came out in 1949.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)
      It's Popular Mechanics, not Mechanical Engineering Journal. It's meant to appeal to the layman, by which I mean, "those who know nothing".
  • by AltEnergy_try_Sunrei (1121435) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @02:50AM (#24096599)

    Having been part of the computational neuroscience community, and fully up to date on brain controlled operation of a robot arm by a monkey in 2001 my assesment would be that we will see all kinds of applications of full brain control.

    The way these systems work is by implanting a grid of probes on the cortex (underneath the skull bone and dura mater). This is the main problem in terms of adaption to humans, but this is the only way to get the detailed measurements of neural activity that can be analyzed and interpreted for use as a control signal.

    The funny thing is, which I found amazing at the time, that first, you don't need that much probes to measure usable signals. I believe 45 probes is enough to distill arm drection in the monkeys case (from millions of 'randomly' participating neurons) and second, the adaption to the control comes naturally :The monkey at one point will simply sease to lift his own arm and instead use the robots.

    So in my opinion brain control is here, it just needs to be refined. The implants are relativley safe because there is no immunoresponse under the dura mater, I'm not sure how long they remain operational, but it could be years.

    Sonemone working on this is Justin C. Sanchez check out www.pubmed.org Cheers, Use clean energy

    • by TheLink (130905)
      " The implants are relativley safe because there is no immunoresponse under the dura mater"

      What if your head gets smacked hard at the "wrong spot", could the implants fly through your brain like a coin through jelly?
  • The brain (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Stooshie (993666) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @04:39AM (#24097261) Journal

    What makes anyone think that the brain can exist as an entity on it's own? (As a working entity Im mean, i.e. capable of conscious thought).

    The brain is not just the big blob inside our skulls, it includes all the neurones in our bodies and all the chemical messengers(hormones), all of which need the rest of the body to work.

    The mind-body separation is a philisophical separation, not a physical one. (Not to be confused with the blod brain barrier which arises purely from the fact that the brain is slightly more fat soluble than the constituents of blood).

    The brain has developed through evolution as part of our body, not as a separate entity. Of all the organs in the body, it is the one that relies on the rest of the body for it's existence. A kidney or the heart can function on it's own for a while (with a little help).

    • by TheLink (130905)
      I bet the stomach and other organs have a fair bit of say over what you like to eat.

      That said, I think the brain might be able to survive artificially sustained without other organs for a number of years. But you'll need to provide all the input/sensors too, otherwise that'll be torture.

      Humans have more than 5 senses.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      The brain is not just the big blob inside our skulls, it includes all the neurones in our bodies and all the chemical messengers(hormones), all of which need the rest of the body to work.

      They need the rest of the body to work the way they do now. Perhaps this is not the most desirable support mechanism for the brain, but only the best one that evolution has thus far been able to provide?

    • by brkello (642429)
      What makes you think the brain can't work on its own? The rest of the body is either there to provide input (sight, touch, smell, taste) or allow you to manipulate your environment. The only other thing the body provides is the nutrients to keep the brain alive. Replace those artificially (i.e. give it a little help) and I see no issues on existing separately.
      • by Stooshie (993666)

        You assume that the body is there to keep the brain alive. Our genes don't "care" whether we have a brain or not. As long as we can stay alive long enough to reproduce.

        In this sense, single cell organisms are probably the most evolutionary succesful. Having to rely on keeping a large brain functioning is, in fact, an evolutionary disadvantage.

        There was a really interesting program on a while back about head transplants. They talked to a doctor that had carried one out on 2 monkeys (unethical, and the mokey

  • Or is my arm somehow non-physical?

  • But it also is not present with digital clarity. The advantage of computer storage is that it is fast and as ordered as you choose to make it. Humans have had a hard time doing three things at once as long as we've been deserving of the name (FWIW) but computers just get slower as they do more things, not more confused. At least, not inherently :P But also, our memories are notoriously unreliable.

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