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Medicine Science

Human Tests of Mind-Controlled Artificial Arm To Begin 119

kkleiner writes "The world's first human testing of a mind-controlled artificial limb is ready to begin. A joint project between the Pentagon and Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, the Modular Prosthetic Limb will be fully controlled by sensors implanted in the brain, and will even restore the sense of touch by sending electrical impulses from the limb back to the sensory cortex. Last week APL announced it had been awarded a $34.5M contract with DARPA, which will allow researchers to test the neural prosthetic in five individuals over the next two years."
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Human Tests of Mind-Controlled Artificial Arm To Begin

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  • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <> on Tuesday August 03, 2010 @11:57PM (#33133990) Journal

    ...connecting something directly to the human brain?

    What would happen if there was a malfunction and the current levels going into the brain for sensor feedback were unregulated?

  • by R3d M3rcury ( 871886 ) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:49AM (#33134260) Journal

    I don't expect those things to actually happen because people have morality [...]

    You must be new here...

  • by jameskojiro ( 705701 ) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:52AM (#33134282) Journal

    This is just the first step, the next step will be interfacing a person's brain into a device for processing data, ie. A cyber brain. The first once will be about the size of a iPhone, but will be external and wirelessly connected to the brain implants, eventually the size will shrink where it will make sense to mount the thing inside of the head.

  • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @12:59AM (#33134314) Homepage Journal

    I would think that this is where the DSP comes in.... You have a series of chemical signals coming in from specific nerves, and you turn each of these signals into a separate data stream. You ask the person, "Okay, try lifting your arm straight up." You then record what happens. Repeat for other actions to build up a rough map of what neuron does what. Then, you have the person try to use the limb, starting from various positions, and tell the person to do specific things, progressively tuning the amount of response for particular motions iteratively until the motion of the prosthetic limb feels natural. Easy? No. Quick? Also no. Possible? I don't see why not.

  • by Psaakyrn ( 838406 ) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @01:17AM (#33134392)
    With plugs at the back of the neck so we can tap into our dreams...
  • by kainosnous ( 1753770 ) <> on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @01:41AM (#33134532)

    I don't expect those things to actually happen because people have morality,

    People are not by nature moral. What most people call "morals" is really just a bunch of self serving excuses for doing bad things. The only influences, secularly speaking, that will keep this technology from being used in the most hideous ways are laziness, lack of sufficient resources, and greedy bickering between scientists, corporations, and bureaucrats.

  • by tsotha ( 720379 ) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @02:36AM (#33134800)

    You're being overly cynical. Nearly all advances in reconstructive surgery and prosthetics have been driven by militaries over the years. These programs are explicitly for reconstruction and rehabilitation.

    The super-soldier thing just isn't practical. For one thing, you could buy a couple tanks for the price you'd pay to wire someone up like that. For another, what would you do with your super-soldiers when they didn't reenlist or became unfit for duty? Then there are basic power/size/weight considerations. Far more practical would be an exoskeleton like HULC.

  • by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @04:37AM (#33135310) Homepage

    We used to bridge current directly through people's brains for therapy, at pretty high power levels. That sucker seems reasonably resilient.

  • by plastbox ( 1577037 ) on Wednesday August 04, 2010 @05:30AM (#33135478) Homepage

    Why should input to this immense, self-organizing computer be any different than output? Read up on Sensory Substitution [] (or augmentation, or perceptual augmentation, or whatever you feel like calling it).

    Just as you say, the brain would figure out how the arm worked if allowed to explore and test. The same thing is true about sensory information presented to the brain through the skin, as long as there is a correlation between the signals going out and the signals coming in. What's the reasoning behind thinking that dropping the wire from the skin to the brain and just "plugging it right in there" would make a difference? Be it the correlation between telling your body to turn, feedback from the inner ear and proprioception and feedback from the feelSpace belt [], or the correlation between sending random signals to a prosthetic arm and observing what happens.. I'm pretty sure the brain would figure it out on it's own.

Put no trust in cryptic comments.