There was a fascinating article in Medical Design Briefs on Monday about advances in the control of prostheses by amputees' thoughts. Here's part of the article:
DEVELOPING A THOUGHT-CONTROLLED ROBOTIC ARM
Dr. Albert Chi, a 2003 graduate of the University of Arizona College of Medicine, Tucson, and a trauma surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, MD, is part of a team of engineers and surgeons developing a Modular Prosthetic Limb—a robotic arm and hand that a person can control using their thoughts. Patients wearing the still experimental robotic limb, say they are able to point a prosthetic finger, grasp a ball, and flex their wrist. In addition, they can distinguish between fingers, and detect the difference between soft and hard objects.
Chi began working on brain control algorithms aimed at controlling robotic arms 20 years ago, while studying biomedical engineering at Arizona State University. His faculty adviser was neurobiologist Andrew Schwartz, who first linked the information coming from the sensory and motor neurons in the brain's cortex to a robotic arm and hand.
At Johns Hopkins, he is part of the $150 million Revolutionizing Prosthetics project led by neuro-intensivist Geoffrey Ling, MD. Revolutionizing Prosthetics is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in response to the more than 1,300 men and women who have come home from war in Iraq and Afghanistan as amputees.
We can hope that this research continues to quickly advance for the sake of our wounded warriors. But we can also think about the potential for this type of control in process automation. Think about the ability to use remote manipulators as easily as thinking about it to turn a valve, or adjust a vernier, or even do a repair remotely in a dangerous area. With the use of 3D remote visualization, this gives operators and engineers a new and unique opportunity to manage the process with less hazard to themselves and others. Think about being able to do maintenance remotely on offshore rigs. There's more, of course...just think of them.