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Robot 'reads minds' to give movement to the paralysed

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A robot that can seemingly read your mind could provide a new level of autonomy to people suffering from paralysis.

Previously, paralysed people would need constant 24-hour help to perform any task. Now, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Architecture and Software Technology FIRST and the Charité hospital in Berlin have created a robotic arm that could perform simple actions, such as lifting a cup of coffee.

To move the robotic arm, patients just have to imagine a limb making the movement that they require. Electrodes placed on the scalp detect the electrical signals from the brain, which are then amplified and transmitted to a computer. Sophisticated software can then find the signals that arose from the intention of moving a limb and translate them into real robotic motion.

The Brain2Robot project has been awarded 1.3m euros by the EU’s sixth Framework Programme. In addition to the robotic arm, the researchers are also developing a thought-controlled typewriter that could allow the severely paralysed to communicate again.