Last week at the Wellcome Collection in London, Sophie Morgan, who was paralysed in a car accident, demonstrated bionic legs after just two short practice sessions.
The exoskeleton, developed by Richard Little and colleagues at Rex Bionics, has lithium batteries that can power up to 2 hours of walking. The user can select different modes, for example to walk up stairs or head down a slope, then guide themselves manually using a joystick. But soon the bionic legs could be controlled using thought alone, thanks to a collaboration with Jose Contreras-Vidal from the University of Houston in Texas. The new mind-reading system will detect brain activity using EEG and translate the electrical impulses into commands for the exoskeleton. Contreras-Vidal is taking a unique approach by extracting impulses associated with motion from the lowest brainwave frequencies.
The team hopes to test the thought-controlled system this year.
Presacco A, Goodman R, Forrester L, and Contreras-Vidal JL (2011). Neural decoding of walking from non-invasive, high-density electroencephalographic (EEG) signals. Journal of Neurophysiology, 106(4):1875-87, PMID: 21768121
Bradberry TJ, Verhagen Metman L, Contreras-Vidal JL, van den Munckhof P, Hosey LA, Thompson JLW, Schulz GM, Lenz F, Pahwa R, Lyons KE, Braun AR. (2011) Common and unique responses to dopamine agonist therapy and deep brain stimulation in Parkinson’s disease: an H2150 PET study. Brain Stimulation, in press.
Contreras-Vidal JL, Presacco A, Agashe H, Paek A. (2012). Restoration of whole body movement: toward a noninvasive brain-machine interface system. IEEE Pulse. 2012 Jan; 3(1):34-7.
Presacco A, Forrester LW, Contreras-Vidal JL. (2012). Decoding lower-limb intra and inter-limb coordination during treadmill walking from scalp EEG signals. IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering, vol. 20 (2):212-9.
King BR, Oliveira MA, Contreras-Vidal JL, Clark JE. (2012) Development of state estimation explains improvements in sensorimotor performance across childhood.
J Neurophysiol. 107(11):3040-9.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.