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Computer Control Implants for the Paralyzed 239

unassimilatible writes: "The Boston Globe is reporting that Cyberkinetics Inc. is about to ask federal regulators for permission to start testing a device that would enable paralyzed people to control computers directly with their brains or possibly help them move their limbs. Initially, the device, implanted into the brains of paralyzed people, will help them control a cursor on a screen or play video games. Researchers believe the technology could one day enable paralyzed people to type, control lights and heating controls, maneuver wheelchairs, or even manipulate robotic arms. I, for one, look forward to playing Stephen Hawking in Unreal Tournament 2004."
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Computer Control Implants for the Paralyzed

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  • So, let's say for conviencence and ease, these things are implanted in the head and they go wireless to the remote motors.

    Now, further, let's say we can hijack that signal.

    Personally, I'm hoping EVERYONE gets on of these. :)
  • by mrtroy ( 640746 ) on Friday November 07, 2003 @03:47PM (#7419012)
    I claimed I could beat the smartest man in the world at unreal tourney.

    Now they have to go and take that from me.

    Now, sharks can control those laser beams on their heads too!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 07, 2003 @03:47PM (#7419013)
    I, for one, welcome our new cybernetic paraplegic overlords.
    • We are Hawking of Borg. Resistance is futile. The Standard Model is irrelevant. All your PGL trophies are belong to us.

      Seriously, how much latency is there between the brain and an appendage? Wouldn't a cybernetic implant cut down on most of this and give them an unfair advantage in FPS games?
      • Re:I, for one... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by canajin56 ( 660655 ) on Friday November 07, 2003 @05:04PM (#7419830)

        Nerve impulses travel at about 120 m/s. If we assume we are talking about a big person, with 1.0 M from fingertip to brain, we are looking at about 8 ms of delay. Assuming we use some one-way protocol, the delay in using electrons to transmit the signal would be about 0.33 ps (1e-9 seconds) Obviously, the device would have to do some processing before sending the signal, but lets just ignore that. The average human has a reaction time of between 400 ms and 600 ms. Even assuming that gamers have super reaction times of 300 ms, an 8 ms decrease is 2.7%. So it is trivial. On the other hand, it may give an advantage in terms of accuracy. But so what, so does an expensive mouse. I heard that somebody modified Quake to give off audio clues of where everything on screen is, and blind people could kick sighted peoples' asses royally at it.

        To put it in computer terms, the human reaction time bottle neck isn't the IO subsystem, but the CPU ;)

        Something that MAY give an unfair advantage is eye-tracking. Because you don't THINK about looking at something that startles you, you just DO. So if the system can track your eye movements, you will aim WAY faster (Not to mention better) that with a mouse. So how would you fire your gun? Hmmm, Fred Sabberhagen used eye twitches or something in his Berserker novels...the problem with that is, if you are linking the game to your automatic reflexes, you better not be playing a team based game, because you will be shooting before you are even fully aware that you have seen something. (In the Berserker novels, they user lasers that operate on a specific frequency, and wore protective suits that reflect said frequency. So they didn't need to worry about shooting first, identifiying later, since they couldn't hurt one another) I know that have built eye tracking devices that chimps have been able to use to "click" on things like a mouse, by looking at a button and then blinking.

        • *BUT* trained nerve impulses are a one-way trip. Martial arts works because you have trained your spine to respond to commands (Eye sees punch and issues info, spine handles reaction). That is why there is so little conscious thought involved in mastery-level physical movement (and I would suspect even coding). I imagine that someone using such an implant would be MUCH faster that expected after a period of training... Usually your reaction time is slowed because you don't normally do the action (hit the
  • That Stephen Hawking is a QuakeMaster []!

  • I, for one, look forward to playing Stephen Hawking in Unreal Tournament 2004.

    Whew.... Thank God. For a minute there I thought you were gonna say something else.
  • - Novell patents neuron, sells patent to SCO on the cheap; SCO sues Cyberkinetics for using SCO intellectual property in product.
    - Cyberkinetics awards Oracle contract to keep track of individual "Social Security - Media Access Control" addresses of devices in anticipation of federal mandate to implant device in all newborns
  • Hawking (Score:4, Funny)

    by DrEldarion ( 114072 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [0791uhcsm]> on Friday November 07, 2003 @03:50PM (#7419046)
    I, for one, look forward to playing Stephen Hawking in Unreal Tournament 2004.

    I didn't realize that you meant playing AGAINST Hawking at first, and I got an image in my head of a polygonal guy in a wheelchair with a robotic arm holding a monstrous gun zipping all over the screen. It made me chuckle.
  • What about me!? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Leolo ( 568145 )
    Why only paralysed people? Why can't I have a cortical link? IMHO, all current computer I/O devices SUCK. Screens are limited. Keyboards are pain. And don't get me started on mice! I hate having to sit at my desk to use the computer. Why can't I pace up and down the room?
    • Re:What about me!? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by DzugZug ( 52149 ) on Friday November 07, 2003 @03:59PM (#7419134) Journal
      Why only paralysed people?

      Simple, funding.
      It is a lot easier for researchers to get grant to "cure a disease" than it is to make computer access easier for everyone. It is also easier to get FDA approval for human trials when the goal is to improve quality of life for disabled people than it is when the goal is to make cooler video games.

      Be patient. The medical applications come first, the consumer ones will follow.

    • First, we develop the brain-computer link. Then, we develop computers smarter than us.

      Yes, it's a Matrix reference. However, I want one too! Department of Ironic Department.

  • I, for one, look forward to playing Stephen Hawking in Unreal Tournament 2004.

  • by Rayonic ( 462789 ) on Friday November 07, 2003 @03:54PM (#7419090) Homepage Journal
    As is chonicled in his MP3 archive []. So I quoteth the bard:

    The Mighty Stephen Hawking is a fucking Quake god,
    got my finger on the trigger and my eye on the quad.
    I know it's just a game, but I didn't come to play,
    the Hawkman cometh and he's bringing Doomsday.
    You say, "impressive", I already know it,
    I'm a hardcore player and I'm not afraid to show it.
    I got a Phd in pain and a masters in disaster,
    the mighty Stephen Hawking is a fucking QuakeMaster.
  • you're still paralyzed; i'd rather invest hope in stem cell research that maybe one day will enable you to grow new limbs and nerves.
    • Why not have both. Stem cell research and brain-interactive technology are both promising, and both might actually be able to interact with each other in the future as well.

      If I had the choice between a new arm a robotic one... might actually be a tough call. How about terminator-style flesh-over-metal. You have surgical stainless bones and one hella strong grip, but you can still feel due to nerves in the overlaying flesh.

      Technology can, and do, exist quite nicely in many situations.
    • New limbs AND nerves?

      I can just picture Stephen Hawking in a Vishnu pose with like 6 arms and an orange halo/aura, about to unleash devestation.
  • In CounterStrike, Hawking would be an AWP whore.

    Someone needs to frag his ass.
  • Remember this? [] Two lights: one for for yes, one for no!

    Couldn't find a larger version.
  • WIRED article (Score:2, Informative)

    by KJE ( 640748 )
    I remember WIRED having an article about this sort of thing. It's a couple of years old but here you go: l []

  • Although it's only mentioned briefly in the article, I think firing existing muscles would be a lot more natural than robotic or robotic assisted limbs. It would make people feel less awkward in public if they didn't have all of the extra equipment. I guess the muscles would be severely atrophied at first and it would take quite a bit of "working out", but in the long run it seems a lot more natural.

    What type of hardware would it take to "fire muscles"? It seems in that case you'd have to run wires to all
    • maybe, but i want 4 prosthetic arms and my 2 real arms so i can be one freak of a machine. not to mention, i want to be thought-linked to a monkey that does everything for me I think of, like swipe my subway pass and buy my 6 cups of coffee for each hand.

      hmm, but then would i need a subway pass for my monkey?
  • Why worry about robotic arms? If they can come up with some sort of tactile feedback system it would be relatively straightforward to use the system as a replacement for the defunct nervous system and have the patient control their own limbs.
  • So is it hacking or cracking when someone breaks in and overtakes the paralyzed person limbs?
  • I, for one, look forward to playing Stephen Hawking in Unreal Tournament 2004.

    I'd think twice before confronting one of the best physicists around. Picture this: Stephen gets tired of being fragged, sits back at his desk for a while and gets back to the action with a new relativistic time-and-space-warping weapon that makes a BFG10K look as dangerous as a water pistol. Scary.

  • by heironymouscoward ( 683461 ) <heironymouscoward@yah o o . com> on Friday November 07, 2003 @04:01PM (#7419167) Journal
    It will happen....

    It will be used for porn...

    It will be used as a drug...

    It will be used for gaming...

    Finally, it will be used in business.... ...but it will never be used to help the disabled.

    They just don't have any economic power.

    • Oh yeah? Then why the hell do I have to sit through 300 motorized wheelchair commercials a night when I'm trying to watch Modern Marvels on the History Channel?
      • oh dear god I just fell out of my non-motorized chair laughing at that.

        The motorized wheelchairs are a huge seller due to laziness, not handicap. You dont have to advertise for the handicap, they come looking for you! (no soviet russia comments please)

        But seriously, just the old and the lazy buy those wheelchairs off of the commercials. I saw some perfectly abled person actually lift one of those out of a rut (yes, like seinfeld with george running with his)
    • I predict that lazy people will become even lazier when they no longer have to even move their finger to change the channel on the TV.

      Microsoft, the RIAA and the MPAA will fight to have your brain DRM'd so that you can't even think about their products without paying the licensing fees.

      Brain hacking will be the next big teenage geek sport with Sobig2010 causing major epileptic fits around the world.

      All pretenses of religion will be dropped for the truely important holy crusade of MacHeads vs Penguinistas
    • Those companies selling wheelchairs and motorized wheelchairs and stairlifts disagree.
    • The disabled have TONS of economic power. Before Dean Kamen invented the Segway, he made his fortune designing things for disabled people. He built a wheelchair that climbs stairs and used some of the stabilization technology in the Seqway.
      Helping the disabled is a niche market but lucrative because lots of people NEED these devices. You can also garantee repeat customers. Basically, anything remotely involving health care is looking like a good bet for the next 20 years. I plan on wringing every dolla
  • now, not only can ten year olds kick my ass in wolfenstein, but so can people who can't even move their bodies. ;)
  • by Tumbleweed ( 3706 ) on Friday November 07, 2003 @04:02PM (#7419177)
    Hawking vs Davros! Oh yeah...

    The winner plays Captain Christopher Pike.

    (I'm such a geek. *sigh*)
    • Theres a Chrisopher Reeve joke hidden around here somewhere, I just know it.
    • (I'm such a geek. *sigh*)

      *beep* ... *beep* (translation: I concur)
    • The winner plays Captain Christopher Pike.

      (I'm such a geek. *sigh*)

      You ever see the film "Trekkies" []? There's an uber-geek in that film who has built his own Christopher Pike wheelchair and then, I kid you not, goes riding in it around town! The scene where he goes to Radio Shack to pick up some new parts for it is hilarious! If you haven't seen this flick, rent it tonight! You'll never make the mistake of calling yourself a geek again after you see the people in this movie!


  • do YOU run Linux? ::sorry::
  • by Anonymous Coward
    No one is reading your thoughts and translating them into movement. You get a biofeedback system to you have to be trained to use. And with biofeedback, you get lazy movements of a curser, not fast or precise enough for typing, or much of anything useful. I bet we'll be growing spinal cord before we have a true neural translator that could generate movement from pure thoughts of movement.
  • Researchers believe the technology could one day enable paralyzed people to type, control lights and heating controls, maneuver wheelchairs, or even manipulate robotic arms.

    This could foreseeably be used in anyone, couldn't it? It would be much faster to type with your mind rather than your fingers and would eliminate the occurance of carpal tunnel and like things. Heck, you could change channels just thinking about it or turn on the light without getting out of bed. (A new era of laziness!) I wonder i

    • Vision's already been done, decades ago. They're still working on getting it to a good resolution and smaller package. Right now, I think it's a big whopping cable into your head, a large computer on your waist, and a clunky pair of camera glasses.
  • What happens now when they decide they want to use their fun new robot arms to rip people apart?
  • Some able-bodies people ask, How come the paralyzed get cybernetic implants, and not me?

    Answer: because the implants are dangerous new techologies, so let's begin our experiments with subjects who have so much more to gain, thus less to lose when things go wrong.
  • by crovira ( 10242 ) on Friday November 07, 2003 @04:13PM (#7419276) Homepage
    He thinks in more dimensions than you've got limbs. You'd be toast in a minute.

    Lets hope that Gates doesn't get into his head that this is potentially life extending though. Think about it, when you're old and feeble, your drones can have just come off the assembly line. Then again, running Windows on his implants might be fitting punishment.
  • Read the comment someone made about sharks with laser beams on their head and it made me think: I wonder if they have developed any of this technology with animal testing. I for one am not only interested in the human aspect, but am also interested in how much capacity an animal would have for learning to control a robotic arm that brings it food or something of that sort.
    • Re:Animal Testing (Score:5, Informative)

      by dowobeha ( 581813 ) on Friday November 07, 2003 @04:34PM (#7419484)
      Yes, this has been tested. A week or so ago I heard a story on NPR where researchers connected a monkey's brain to a computer. The monkey had a joystick in its hands which controlled a robotic arm. Eventually, the monkey figured out that it could set down the joystick and continue to control the robotic arm using nothing but its brain.
  • ...but seriously, I can't wait. What geek would *not* love having the fridge door open, a Coke can fly out, and a coaster leaping in the air to catch it? The Cybernetic Force is strong with this one...
  • Duke University (Score:4, Interesting)

    by falconed ( 645790 ) on Friday November 07, 2003 @04:18PM (#7419328)
    This tech works -- this article [] talks about a team of researchers at Duke that were able to connect sensors to a monkey's brain and then use the brain patters to drive a robot arm. As the monkey reached for food, so would the arm. The cool part is that the arm was located in a lab 950km away.

    My coworker (a Duke alum) told me that the researchers then tied down the monkey's arm and asked it to reach for the food again. The monkey's arm didn't move, but the robotic arm did. I can't find any articles on that, but here's [] one about some monkey's playing video games just by thinking it. Cool stuff.

  • Computer Controls Implants in Wife..

    "When the kids are away, i set them to DD. But if there's company over or Sally is going out with co-workers, I like to bring 'em down to a conservative B.
  • play Duke Nukem Forever :)

  • "Computer Control Implants for the Paralyzed"

    But why would I want to control a paralyzed person?
  • There's an anime called Angelic Layer that uses this basic idea and extends it to controlling a small robot fighter in a virtual environment.

    There's all sorts of interesting game ideas you could take from this. Of course, as others mentioned, death match FPS will never be the same.
  • Paralyzed man controls computer via brain implant

    October 26, 1998 8:05 AM PT
    By Reuters

    ATLANTA -- A paralyzed Georgia man who received a tiny brain implant has become the first human to control a computer using only his thoughts...

    Here if you wanna read the rest of it... []

  • I, for one, look forward to playing Stephen Hawking in Unreal Tournament 2004.

    Even without control of his legs he would kick your ass.

    He has a PhD in pain and a Masters in diaster, the mighty Stephen Hawking is a Quake Master [].
  • I, for one, look forward to playing Stephen Hawking in Unreal Tournament 2004.

    Not me, he'd probably start using time-space continuum cheats. :)

  • Wait one minute. You're telling me. That if I "happen" go get paralyzed I can sit in a bed the rest of my life, be cleaned by someone else, free room and board, crap yourself, and have no worries.

    And play video games?

    Sounds pretty tempting.
  • Hypothetical (Score:3, Interesting)

    by El ( 94934 ) on Friday November 07, 2003 @04:48PM (#7419651)
    So, if your thought-controlled cybernetic arm pinches your coworkers butt, are you still guilty of sexual harrassment? "But, your honor, I was only thinking about doing that!" Sounds like a whole new legal can of worms with regards to people being responsible for their actions...
    • Re:Hypothetical (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Junta ( 36770 )
      I would think it would take training to get the thing to work the way you want it, I imagine accidently making a robotic arm do something as complex as that is at least as unlikely as accidently doing it with a natural arm.
    • I don't really know anything about how it works, BUT I don't think that could happen. THINKING about pinching a coworker's butt and PINCHING a coworker's butt are going to involve different parts of the brain (one for thought, one for moving your arm) so thinking about doing something would make your arm move, you'd have to *move* your arm.
  • I, for one, welcome our new quadriplegic-cybernetic overlords.
  • I can't wait for the next step after they get these approved to help the crippled, when they allow anyone with a few bucks to get these implants.
  • Their gonna plug my brain into the Matrix... NOooooo!
  • "implanted into the brains of paralyzed people, will help them control a cursor on a screen or play video games."

    I'll need one of these after my Xbox controllers have finally rendered my hands useless.
  • It's like people deny that it exists. Why must the first thought be making the disable "normal" instead of making people beyond "normal"?
  • I for one welcome out new brain overl... um, no.

    Just imagine a beowulf clus.. rats.

    In soviet russia, your brain controls y.. er, damn.

    None of these work with this topic! :(

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