Back in November, DARPA Director, Arati Prabhakar spoke about the projects the agency is currently funding, including a mind-controlled robotic arm, at Expand NY. Tested by Jan Scheuermann, the test run has ended.  However, the University of Pittsburg has recently published a paper explaining how the limb has improved over the past two years.  “Overall, our results indicate that highly coordinated, natural movement can be restored to people whose arms and hands are paralyzed,” said Pitt School of Medicine professor Andrew Schwartz, Ph.D.

Jan could move the arm, wrist and fingers of the robotic arm and even reportedly beat her brother in a rock, paper, scissor game. How does it work? In 2012 Jan had neural implants put in the part of her brain that controls her right arm. How was this ‘mind reading’ accomplished?  Scientists had her watch animations of hand-arm movements and had her imagine doing them.  The brain patterns were then used to programme the arm.  Amazing stuff!

Scientists would now like to further their technology by using the arm on other volunteers.  Although it still stalls when the hand holds an object, they are hoping to fix the problem.  The aim is to make it a wireless, wheelchair device.  BrainGate is also a research company working on mind-controlled robotic limbs.  Duke University also made a mind-controlled exoskeleton for Juliana Pinto who used it during opening ceremony of the World cup in June.

[Image via upmc]