Using a telepresence system developed at EPFL, 19 people – including nine quadriplegics – were able to remotely control a robot located in one of the university laboratories. This multi-year research project aims to give a measure of independence to paralyzed people. This technology has shown that it works well and is easy to use.
For someone suffering from paralysis or limited mobility, visiting with other people is extremely difficult. A team of researchers at the Defitech Foundation Chair in Brain-Machine Interface (CNBI), headed by José Millán, has however been working on a revolutionary brain-machine approach in order to restore a sense of independence to the disabled. The idea is to remotely control a robot from home with one’s thoughts. The research, involving numerous subjects located in different countries, produced excellent results in both human and technical terms. The conclusions are discussed in the June special edition of Proceedings of the IEEE, dedicated to brain-machine interfaces.
19 people tested, 100 percent success rate
Nine disabled people and ten healthy people in Italy, Germany and Switzerland took part in the task of piloting a robot with their thoughts. For several weeks, each of the subjects put on an electrode-studded hat capable of analyzing their brain signals. They then instructed the robot to move, transmitting their instructions in real time via internet from their home country. By virtue of its video camera, screen and wheels, the robot, located in an EPFL laboratory, was able to film itself as it moved while displaying the face of the remote pilot via Skype. The person at the controls, as if moving in place of the robot, was able to interact with whoever the robot crossed paths with. “Each of the 9 subjects with disabilities managed to remotely control the robot with ease after less than 10 days of training,” said Millán.
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