Robot Controls Human Arms with Electrodes
CREDIT: IEEE Spectrum
Humans have long looked forward to a world where they controlled robotic suits like powerful extensions of their own body, or could simply order their mechanical servants around. But a stunning demonstration of a robot directly controlling the arms of human volunteers presents a more uncomfortable scenario -- perhaps artificial intelligence can just as easily manipulate humans like meat puppets.
That doesn't mean researchers don't have noble intentions for the technology, according to IEEE Spectrum. They want to see if such technology could help paralyzed or otherwise physically disabled people move their arms or legs once more. To test the concept, they recruited human volunteers to temporarily give up control over their bodies for science.
Two electrodes attached to the forearm delivered the electric signals to force the volunteers to open or close their hand. Another two electrodes on the upper arm controlled the elbow joint to make the arm move toward the body.
Next came the exciting (or terrifying) bit of the experiment. A small humanoid robot held a toy basketball hoop in one hand as the human volunteers grasped a ball. The robot then issued commands to the human arm to position the ball over the hoop, before ordering the hand to release the ball.
A video of the experiments by Bruno Vilhena Adorno and his French colleagues at the Montpellier Laboratory of Informatics, Robotics, and Microelectronics debuted at the IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems.
Such technology promises to provide an indirect way for paralyzed people to command their limbs to move, if injury or some other health condition has severed direct brain-to-limb control through the body's nervous system. Hopefully the second or third generation devices for robot-human control have less jerkiness and puppet-style movements suggestive of a more disturbing future.