Saffron's Space

In this first installment of ‘When Science Fiction Becomes Reality’, I decided to discuss something which is not only incredible but also offers significant improvements to quality of life for many people.

This amazing innovation is mind-controlled robots. That’s right, a chip inserted into the brain reads neural signals and translates them into movements which are sent to the robotic device, in this particular case; an arm. The scientific paper can be read here: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v485/n7398/full/nature11076.html

But if you’d like a more layperson-friendly version io9 gives a pretty good breakdown: http://io9.com/5910859/watch-this-paralyzed-woman-control-a-robotic-arm-using-only-her-mind

Mind Controlled Robot

Think of the implications of this kind of technology! Sure it’s a little bit cumbersome right now but with the speed at which technology is advancing it won’t be long at all before tetraplegic individuals will be using robotic limbs with as much ease as we use our own. Imagine what this could mean for amputees! A long lost limb could be replaced as easily as inserting a microchip.

The amazing thing about this technology is that very little training is required, the chip reads brain activity that would occur normally and translates that for the robot- no assemblage required.

Take the time to watch the video- it’s truly remarkable: http://youtu.be/ogBX18maUiM

But aside from the medical benefits, what does this technology mean for our beloved science fiction? In my opinion it means we have to set our imaginations, and our expectations even further afield. I’ve found that some science-fiction writers who don’t keep abreast of current scientific advances will often write about futuristic technology which has already been invented!! So in this particular case, we already have mind-control robots, what’s the next step? Perhaps a futuristic step would be not requiring the brain chip? Or perhaps controlling more complex systems, such as a gaming character in a first person shooter? Or maybe even a spaceship run entirely by thought control?

The possibilities are endless, but I think the most amazing thing is that it’s already here and happening right before our eyes!

Tune in next Wednesday for another dose of ‘When Science Fiction Becomes Reality’.

What great scientific advances have you heard about? What do you think this kind of technology will lead to?



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