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Medicine Technology

Toyota Demonstrates Brain Control of Wheelchair 107

Posted by kdawson
from the left-no-left-dammit-left-puff-crash dept.
An anonymous reader tips us that researchers at Toyota have developed a brain-machine interface system that allows for control of a wheelchair using thought. The system processes brain thought patterns (such as the thought of moving one's left foot) and can turn them into left, right, and forward movements of the wheelchair with a delay as short as one-eighth of a second. That's a big improvement over existing systems, which can take as long as several seconds to analyze and react to the user's thoughts. "The system has an emergency stop that can be activated by the user puffing his cheeks. The BMI adjusts itself over time to the characteristics of each driver's brainwaves. If a person dedicates three hours a day to using the system, the BMI can reach 95% accuracy in a week, researchers said."
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Toyota Demonstrates Brain Control of Wheelchair

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @02:32AM (#28524911)
    .. Jeremy Clarkson sit in one.
  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @02:34AM (#28524919)
    But hitting that wall or doorjamb the other 5% of the time really sucks.
    • by fractoid (1076465) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @02:48AM (#28524997) Homepage
      I was going to say just this. 95% sounds good until you start thinking about it - but that means that in every hour of usage, the chair is going to spend three full minutes misbehaving. I can't find exact statistics or standards for conventional electric wheelchairs but I'd be amazed if the mean time before failure is measured in minutes rather than months or years.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Bob9113 (14996)

        I was going to say just this. 95% sounds good until you start thinking about it - but that means that in every hour of usage, the chair is going to spend three full minutes misbehaving.

        OK, sure, but answer this: When you go out for an hour walk, do you ever stumble or overbalance? Sure, the wheelchair isn't perfect -- but neither are we.

        Three minutes? I'd guess this thing is about as effective at understanding the brain's motive commands as an average six year old. That's pretty good.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by BrightSpark (1578977)
          The human being has a built in risk management system. I wouldn't like the 5% failure to happen say at the train platform or near a road crossing. We take special care and do a lot of subconscious checking in more dangerous situations. True we are not foolproof, but we have a lifetime of reasoning to fall back on. The wheelchair system is a bit like a child. Kids need extra help in similar conditions becasue their peripheral vision is not great, their sense of risk and reasoning is still developing. I'm sur
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            Granted, 95% accuracy isn't amazing, especially in situations where you can't afford to make a mistake. This being said, I'm pretty sure that such a sophisticated device could easily implement some collision/stair avoidance (for instance).

            I know I've tried putting my roomba on top of a table (or tried to make it go off the stairs), but it just stops when it gets to an edge. It also stops when its bumpers hit a wall, by the way. I don't know how much this wheelchair would cost, but I wouldn't be surprised
          • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

            by drinkypoo (153816)

            The human being has a built in risk management system. I wouldn't like the 5% failure to happen say at the train platform or near a road crossing.

            People accidentally step in front of cars and trains all the time.

            Care to back up, and try again?

            P.S. Slashdot's new five minutes between postings policy is retarded. I suspect that they can't afford any more servers, and the new functionality is kicking slashdot's ass, so they have to reduce the meaningful traffic. Less comments, less cached pages to generate. Only those who read and write slowest are permitted to comment at full speed. Congratulations for once again reducing the overall quality of comment

            • by Ant P. (974313)

              I can post comments less than 5 minutes apart just fine. Maybe it's based on the amount of whining a user does?

      • by TapeCutter (624760) * on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @04:01AM (#28525369) Journal
        "I was going to say just this. 95% sounds good until you start thinking about it - but that means that in every hour of usage, the chair is going to spend three full minutes misbehaving. I can't find exact statistics or standards for conventional electric wheelchairs but I'd be amazed if the mean time before failure is measured in minutes rather than months or years."

        Depends how you define "failure". For the type of patient that need this interface the existing interface methods would have up to a 100% failue rate simply because their disability prevents them from using it with a reasonable degree of accuracy.
        • by fractoid (1076465)
          Good point. Their current option is 'not', so any control is good. Also, if they're reading the inputs 8 times a second, I'd presume that they would do some form of filtering to improve accuracy in practice.
      • I was going to say just this. 95% sounds good until you start thinking about it - but that means that in every hour of usage, the chair is going to spend three full minutes misbehaving.

        Depends on how it fails for that 5%. If 95% of the time, it understands and executes the command perfectly, but the other 5% of the time, it doesn't understand and thus executes no command, then that's pretty good.

        • by skaet (841938) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @07:20AM (#28526243) Homepage

          Additionally, which 5% are we talking about? Does it fail every 57min for 3min reliably? Every 19min for 60sec? Every minute for 3sec? Or every 10sec for half a second?

          Breaking it down like that and what do you get? A very small delay between reaction times every few seconds. Perhaps not even a noticeable delay since their optimal response time is 0.125sec

      • by SeaFox (739806) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @05:27AM (#28525749)

        The statement was "If a person dedicates three hours a day to using the system, the BMI can reach 95% accuracy in a week", they didn't say that 95% was the highest accuracy one could obtain. After a full month of usage, you could find yourself at decimal point level inaccuracy.

    • by pinkushun (1467193) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @04:06AM (#28525389) Journal
      That's 95% more than any paralyzed person can move. I'm sure this figure will improve too!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Techman83 (949264)
      Yeah, but I'm envious of a 95% accuracy, if I could get that whilst walking, I'd be a less bruised man.
    • But hitting that wall or doorjamb the other 5% of the time really sucks.

      I have a colleague with cerebral palsy who uses a powered wheelchair and she accidentally bumps doorjambs and corners of tables all the time. I don't know if it is 5% of the time, but there's not a whole lot of paint on the the door casings in our lab. It's actually not that big a deal because she is completely surrounded by the chair so it's pretty hard for her to get hurt. And she doesn't, you know, go right up to the edge of staircases or train platforms or anything.
      I'm sure that they are working on that

  • by wasabu (1502975) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @02:35AM (#28524921)
    Uhmm.. what happens if you can't stop thinking about moving?
  • by iluvcapra (782887) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @02:40AM (#28524949)
    Yeah, the wheelchair can read minds, but can it flash a light to indicate "yes" or "no"?
    • by dynamo52 (890601)

      Yeah, the wheelchair can read minds, but can it flash a light to indicate "yes" or "no"?

      I know you were going for funny but for many patients I would imagine something similar (with a less ridiculous methodology perhaps) to be a useful feature that could probably be easily implemented through this technology.

    • Yeah, the wheelchair can read minds, but can it flash a light to indicate "yes" or "no"?

      From what I've learned of the future(ama) I think you mean "yes" and "yes, yes".

    • I've always wondered why he can't just use Morse code with that light...
    • by arb phd slp (1144717) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @09:59AM (#28527691) Homepage Journal

      You don't need a "no" response, actually. You can communicate quite well with just a "Yes". (Here is where I explain all of the humor out of the Capt. Pike joke.) The computer can automatically scan through a series of options and the user can activate when it gets to the option he or she wants. If no response, it simply assumes No and moves on.

      If you want to see examples of this system at work, check out Jean-Dominique Bauby's system in the film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, where it scans the letters of the alphabet in order of frequency (in French in his case).

      Stephen Hawking uses a row-column system that scans through dictionaries of whole words large blocks at a time, each selection narrowing down the options to the word, so that he only has to resort to spelling things out for infrequently occurring words.

    • by ncc74656 (45571) *
      What I want to know is whether you have to think in Russian [imdb.com]^H^H^H^H^H^H^HJapanese to control this thing.
  • Wheeee! (Score:2, Insightful)

    I can't wait to hook it up to a Wii and play some racing games.
  • by Cyrcyr (1070070) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @03:21AM (#28525145)
    I, for one, welcome our new brain controlling wheelchair overlords.
    • by Yoozer (1055188)
      When you formulate it like this... it sounds like Toyota is making Dalek prototypes. EXTERMINATE!
  • by RuBLed (995686)
    I'd hit that!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    If you actually went to the article and watched the video, there is a side-note at the end that Honda developed a similar system for controlling a robot.

    They demonstrate using ASIMO.

    HOW IS THIS NOT THE MAIN STORY!

  • by zip0nada (883919)
    Oh, good, I stand a relatively good chance of being able to stop myself before rolling into traffic. Although, to be fair, I'd much rather face a 5% error rate than have no control at all. Not to mention that's only one week of training.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JanneM (7445)

      "Oh, good, I stand a relatively good chance of being able to stop myself before rolling into traffic."

      Which is why the brake is controlled with the breathing tube.

  • Roujin Z anyone? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Mainly nostalgia here, but the article reminded me of the plot from Roujin Z (OAV) [animenewsnetwork.com].
    An elderly invalid is volunteered for a bizarre science experiment. He is given a robotic bed linked directly to his brainwaves, allowing instant gratification. This seems like a wonderful deal, until this seemingly harmless bed goes out of control and transforms into an unstoppable robot.

    I first saw the film on the SciFi channel many years ago.

  • With only a cheek muscle left to tweak, perhaps Mr Hawkin could put this to good use.

  • Now we don't have to move at all!

  • Yes but... (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    ...does it run Linux?

  • by Ossk (650546) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @03:38AM (#28525247)

    This was done a few years ago in a different way: you wear an electronic collar which eavesdrops on the nerves running to your vocal chords. These signals are then decoded into words. Finally, some words, like "forward", are interpreted as intentions to move. The system is called the Audeo.

    Official site: http://www.theaudeo.com/ [theaudeo.com]
    Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iyQv61899HE [youtube.com]
    Article: http://zone.ni.com/devzone/cda/tut/p/id/6130 [ni.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Finally, some words, like "forward", are interpreted as intentions to move.

      I can imagine how this could be very entertaining to see in action. Imagine someone on a stage giving a speech in one of these. "...these figures show clearly, we should move forward AAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaah" CRASH.

      • by Chris Burke (6130)

        Hehe. Or if I designed the wheelchair: "... and as you can clearly see, if we don't do something about resonance increasing pressure in the fuel lines then the whole system could explode-" KABOOOOOOOOM!

        Which, I have to admit, was a pretty good reason for them to not hire me.

  • Don't get me wrong, this is an amazing achievement but clearly it'll need work to be practical. 95% sounds great until you realise that if you're on a footpath with oncoming traffic, or near the top of some stairs, that 5% can be painful or deadly.

  • by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @03:58AM (#28525353)

    This technological advance screams out to be mounted on a mobile beer fridge. Far more convenient than waiting for a buddy to finish his pint, then using that time-worn phrase, "While you're up..."

  • Okay, I'll say this again, because it doesn't seem to have filtered through to the general population yet. Until the singularity, the human brain will be able to learn more easily than a computer. Please stop trying to teach computers the thought patterns for specific movements, and just provide a neural interface for the brain to work with. The brain will be able to figure out what signals it needs to fire to get the wheelchair moving (or whatever) soon enough.

    FWIW, my own idea of how to do this would be t

    • FWIW, my own idea of how to do this would be to put a few small electrodes into a person's lower arm, far away from the brain (and have a sensitive meter to detect nerve firings).

      Why not just put the electrodes into the person's feet? Then when they're walking along, the wheelchair can just follow a few paces behind them. That way, if they ever find themselves paralyzed and unable to send nerve firings to their feet, they'll find it rather convenient to have a wheelchair available.

    • by Gordonjcp (186804)

      FWIW, my own idea of how to do this would be to put a few small electrodes into a person's lower arm

      If they had nerve impulses getting as far as their lower arm, they'd be able to use a joystick.

    • Singularity schmingularity. It's almost as overhyped as the semantic web.
      • by maxume (22995)

        The problem is that there are plenty of people who are teetering on the brink of losing their traditional faith, and there are these other folks who say that heaven is coming to earth.

        Makes for enthusiasts, I think.

    • Okay, I'll say this again, because it doesn't seem to have filtered through to the general population yet. Until the singularity, the human brain will be able to learn more easily than a computer. Please stop trying to teach computers the thought patterns for specific movements, and just provide a neural interface for the brain to work with. The brain will be able to figure out what signals it needs to fire to get the wheelchair moving (or whatever) soon enough.

      FWIW, my own idea of how to do this would be to put a few small electrodes into a person's lower arm, far away from the brain (and have a sensitive meter to detect nerve firings). Once the brain figures out what nerves are important for this interface, you then use that interface to deliver signals to operate other equipment.

      I know in theory this sounds good but has it ever been demonstrated to work? Can adults recruit new brain areas like this?

      • I know in theory this sounds good but has it ever been demonstrated to work? Can adults recruit new brain areas like this?

        Turns out, yes. With the right biofeedback, the brain remains plastic throughout adulthood. Otherwise, all of the stroke and TBI rehab I've done my whole career wouldn't have worked. I've seen it functionally, and more recently, they've seen new synaptic growth in the lab.
        I don't think anyone will be developing whole new brain areas, but the existing motor cortex can repurpose itself.

  • by nawcom (941663) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @04:41AM (#28525547) Homepage
    Okay, i'll look like some troll already mods, but give me a second.

    I just feel that this is just another promo ad that gets sent to tech sites from some publicists to get the title of the technology spread with their name on it.

    this article, (06/29/2009) [gizmodo.com]
    Brain controlled wheelchair developed at University of South Florida (02/11/2009) [robotliving.com]
    from European scientists, Brain Controlled Wheelchair (05/11/2008) [ubergizmo.com]
    Ambient Tech creates brain controlled wheelchair (09/06/2007) [newscientist.com]
    Brain controlled wheelchair from spanish inventor (01/29/2007) [futurismic.com]
    University of Electro Communications in Japan develop brain controlled wheelchair (08/11/2006) [pinktentacle.com]

    Yeah I'll stop. Mod me down. I just think it's odd that this stuff gets press like it's something brand new. Perhaps sell us by saying its much better? Something. Please.
    • Fair point, and shouldn't be modded down, but the difference is that this one interprets dance moves!

  • That's really incredible!! Mind control? How could that work?! What? Oh, it only works on their special wheel chair...

  • by FishTankX (1539069) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @06:24AM (#28525985)
    I am professor Xavier. And I approve this wheelchair.
  • ...when you have demonstrated wheelchair control of a brain.
  • by arndawg (1468629) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @06:35AM (#28526029)
    I can see it now. Balmer hooked up to an army of wheel chairs throwing themselves at you.
  • It's always good to see the human brain controlling our possessions, rather than the other way around. I look forward to the day when people are connected to other people in this same capacity.
  • Stephen Hawking (Score:2, Interesting)

    by PlantPerson (781437)
    This is slightly off topic, but I hope this technology develops fast enough to get Stephen Hawking some great things before he dies. I'd love to see him given something that would allow him to type letters just by thinking of them.
  • Just Askin' (Score:3, Funny)

    by BigBlueOx (1201587) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @09:36AM (#28527365)
    Toyota researchers in Japan have built a brain/machine interface (BMI)...

    Is it an EVIL brain/machine interface?

    ... that has been demonstrated to control a wheelchair ...

    Is it an EVIL wheelchair?

    ...using a person's thoughts.

    Are they EVIL thoughts?
  • Controlled by your thoughts...

    Wow, I what would happen if I drove off this bridge... WHUPPS!

  • By 'puffing his cheeks', could they be referring to farting?
    If not, would sneezing/coughing constantly stop the chair?
  • ... the future of gaming. We will look back at these stories and realise this was where it all started...
  • What if you fell asleep in the chair and dreamt you were moving around?
  • by c0d3r (156687)

    Now if the BMI can help me when I BM, then I can retire happily.

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