Monkey brain controls robot arm, hand

University of Pittsburgh researchers have hooked a monkey's brain up with an industrial robot arm, giving the animal's mere thoughts direct control of it.

Tim Hornyak
Crave freelancer Tim Hornyak is the author of "Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots." He has been writing about Japanese culture and technology for a decade. E-mail Tim.
Tim Hornyak
Motorlab, University of Pittsburgh

Monkey see, monkey do. And if monkey is a cyborg with a massive robot arm, monkey will do anything it wants.

University of Pittsburgh researchers led by Andrew Schwartz have made a monkey control a seven-axis robot arm and manipulator with its thoughts alone by implanting sensors in the simian's brain.

Like Honda's brain-controlled Asimo experiment, the research is aimed at developing better brain-machine interfaces to give disabled or paralyzed people greater mobility.

The researchers inserted two implants in the animal's motor cortex, covering the arm- and hand-controling areas. The video shows how the monkey controls the large arm and manipulator to make it grasp a black knob positioned in the air by another robot. When it manages to do that, the monkey gets a drink as a reward.

The results of the study are yet to be published, but they build on previous experiments reported in the journal Nature, in which macaques that had brain implants learned to manipulate mechanical arms to feed themselves.

No word yet on when monkey brains will be controlling Asimo.

(Via IEEE Spectrum)