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MIT Robot Is Controlled by Thoughts
2017-03-07 00:00:00
Geraldine Rodriguez Gian Saldevia

A robot designed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology can be controlled by thinking, researchers say.

Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have successfully built a mind-control robot that responds to commands directly from the operator’s brain.

The prototype robot, nicknamed Baxter, was tested via a simple task of sorting objects into two bins.When an operator linked to the robot via an electrocardiogram (ECG) machine indicated by thought alone that the robot was making a sorting error, the robot was able to stop and move the current object into the other box.

"As you watch the robot, all you have to do is mentally agree or disagree with what it is doing," said laboratory director Daniela Rus. "You don't have to train yourself to think in a certain way; the machine adapts to you."

Scientists see many applications for future implementations of thought-controlled robots, including self-driving cars and manufacturing.The technology could also help control prosthetic arms and legs, researchers say.

"Imagine being able to instantaneously tell a robot to do a certain action without needing to type a command, push a button or even say a word," Rus said. "A streamlined approach like that would improve our abilities to supervise factory robots, driverless cars and other technologies we haven't even invented yet."

Scientists also equipped Baxter with software that allows the robot to ask the human supervisor for advice if its sensors leave it unsure which bin an object belongs in.The human operator responds to the dialog with Yes or No statements delivered via thought.

Photo: Jason Dorfman/MIT CSAIL


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