Honda thinks up mind-controlled robots

Honda Research Institute and Shimadzu demonstrate a technology that lets humans control a bot through thought alone. But don't start trying to think your Scooba into writing your thesis just yet.

A video of the robot mind control system shows a user being shown a card with a picture of a hand on it. After pondering his hand, the command from the user's brain is then transferred to Asimo, which acknowledges the request by raising its robotic limb. Thankfully, users are not required to wear Crocs. Honda

We're not just moving toward the day when robots can do everything for us. We're apparently moving toward the day when we can just think about what we want done, and get it (almost) presto.

Japan's Honda Research Institute and precision-equipment manufacturer Shimadzu on Tuesday demonstrated a rather mind-boggling technology that lets humans control a bot through thought alone--thus taking the pesky button pressing, voice commands, and remote controls out of the equation.

Helmet
The system uses a black helmet fitted with sensors to measure brain activity corresponding to thought. Honda

But don't start trying to telepath your Scooba into writing your doctoral thesis just yet. For now, researchers are focusing on getting the latest version of Honda's Asimo humanoid bot to perform simple actions like raising an arm or leg.

The system involves a helmet full of electroencephalography and near-infrared spectroscopy sensors that monitor electrical brainwaves and cerebral blood flow, signals that alter slightly during the human thought process. The robot controller thinks of one of a limited number of specific gestures it wants from Asimo, which has been fitted with a Brain Machine Interface.

The data is then analyzed on a real-time basis to distinguish what the user imagined and transmitted wirelessly to the bot, which makes corresponding movements.

Researchers in Tokyo showed a demonstration video of the system in which a user is shown a card with a picture of a right hand on it. After the user thinks about his right hand, the command from the user's brain is then transferred to Asimo, which acknowledges the request and raises its own right robotic limb.

Unfortunately, the scientists did not demo the technology live due to what they said were space constraints and concerns about possible distractions to the person's concentration--presumably in the form of blinding flashbulbs and the stunned faces of onlookers.

Honda nonetheless says tests of the system have produced results with 90 percent accuracy.

About the author

Leslie Katz, Crave's senior editor, heads up a team that covers the most crushworthy (and wackiest) tech, science, and culture around. As a co-host of the now-retired CNET News Daily Podcast, she was sometimes known to channel Terry Gross and still uses her trained "podcast voice" to bully the speech recognition software on automated customer service lines. E-mail Leslie.

 

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