Monday, October 10, 2011

Mind and Machine - Nonfiction

If you haven't already seen it in the news, here's the breakthrough; quadriplegic Tim Hemmes was able to move a robotic arm - with his mind.

Hemmes is part of an experimental program at the University of Pittsburgh. Although the program is in its very early stages, the fact that a human can move an object simply by thinking about it has enormous potential for the future.

Here's the simple breakdown on how it works. Although you aren't conscious of it, before performing an action like raising your arm you "think it" first. Neurons instantly fire in a unique pattern that sends the command down the spinal cord and along the necessary pathways to the limb. Muscles contract, and you perform the movement. Therefore, "thinking" a movement and visualizing it in your mind produces a neuron pattern, which can be accessed by a Brain Computer Interface, which converts that neuron pattern into signals to move a robotic arm. It's essentially a way to bypass the severed/damaged spinal cord and hook the brain and an outside device together.

It's still in the experimental stage, and there are plenty of obstacles to overcome, as well as fine-tuning down the road. One of the goals is to figure out a way to restore a sense of "touch" when using a robotic limb. But for now, Tim Hemmes seems happy with his accomplishments so far. He and his girlfriend had met after the accident which paralyzed him; for the first time in seven years, he was able to reach out and touch her.

"Definitely the tears were flowing," he said. (Quoted from AP article; see link below)

Read More On Mind Control and Touch

Read More On Tim Hemmes (AP News Release)


  1. What a great story, and I'd been waiting for this to become reality.

  2. We have the technology..and Skynet goes live!

    Hide Sarah Conner!!!

  3. Oh my, this is very impressive. Every step forward is a step in the right direction.

  4. This Is simply amazing. It's beautiful, and scary at the same time.

  5. Wow, very strange and amazing and a bit scary. Zade has been drawing a lot of robots lately and my youngest son and I had a long conversation about robotics a couple of days ago. Very interesting.

  6. I agree with Hjort except it's more like a reach forward. Truly amazing.

  7. The most wonderful developments of modern science. Certainly there are potential negative outcomes, but the mind abounds with positive applications. Beautiful.