March 31, 2009

Honda Shows Off Robot Controlled By The Human Mind

Honda unveiled a new technology on Tuesday that allows humans to control a robot with their minds, the Associated Press reported.

A helmet-like device that measures the users brain activity and sends signals to the machine controls the robot, allowing it to perform tasks such as dancing and running.

The technology works by reading patterns of electric currents on the operator's scalp as well as changes in cerebral blood flow when the user thinks about four simple movements - moving the right hand, moving the left hand, running and eating.

Honda Motor Co.'s human-shaped robot, called Asimo, analyzes the thought patterns and then relays them as wireless commands.

Honda released a video on Tuesday demonstrating how the helmet works.

The operator sat still but thought about moving his right hand"”a thought that was picked up by cords attached to his head inside the helmet. Asimo then lifted its right arm after responding to the controller's brain signals.

The programmers said that since brain patterns differ greatly among individuals, it requires around two to three hours of studying them in advance before the technology can work properly.

Honda said the technology was still at a basic research stage with no immediate practical applications currently in the works.

Yasuhisa Arai, executive at Honda Research Institute Japan Co., the company's research unit, said practical uses are still way into the future.

The Japanese government is pushing to develop the emerging robotics industry as a road to economic growth.

Honda, one of the leaders in robotics technology, claims its research is among the most advanced in figuring out a way to read brain patterns without having to harm the operator, such as embedding sensors into the skin.

Asimo has been something of a calling card for Honda, sending him to events and using him in the company's television ads.

The company said one of the challenges for the brain technology is to make the reading-device smaller so it can be portable.

Arai said Honda's products are for people to use, so it was important for them to understand human behavior.

"We think this is the ultimate in making machines move," he added.

The project is jointly run with the state-backed Advanced Research Institute International and precision-equipment manufacturer Shimadzu Corp.


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