The ability to manipulate robots with a simple thought might sound like something from science fiction, but the technology may not be far from becoming part of our lives.
Ryan Mintz, an electrical engineering student at The University of Toronto, has created a robotic arm that can be controlled without having to move a single limb.
The project was showcased at the university’s Design Fair, and the technology is intended for use in prosthetics. Mintz explained in a demo video that the technology works by measuring electrical signals in your brain.
The user would wear a cap that Mintz described as an “emotive headset,” which is used to detect electrical activity in your mind. The signals are then analysed in a computer, and specific signals are extracted from the raw data obtained by the headset.
The cap can determine its wearers facial expressions at a “fair degree of accuracy.” This means it can detect whether you’re winking, clenching your jaw, or smiling. Those signals are then sent to the robotic arm, which prompts it to move.
Mintz says that the technology could eventually be used to assist those with mobility issues. For example, if the cap is placed on someone who does not have control over his or her limbs, that person would be able to navigate a wheelchair without having to move.
It can also be used as a prosthetic limb once the technology is more accurate, Mintz said. The idea is to eventually develop the technology so that a user could simply think about moving a limb rather than having to wink or make a facial expression.
From what we can gather from Mintz’s video, the technology appears to be extremely accurate. The robotic limb reacted with precise movements as soon as the student winked his eye.
The video surfaces just as the Food and Drug Administration approved a prosthetic limb that can be controlled with its user’s thoughts. The DEKA Arm, which was created by the same man who invented the Segway, is also capable of performing complex actions that might not have been possible with current generation prosthetics.
Mintz’ invention is one of several solutions aimed at helping those with mobile disabilities. Tobii, a company that makes eye-tracking peripherals for computers, has created a camera that works with Windows tablets that can enable a completely hands-free computing experience for those with disabilities.
Other manufacturers are also actively experimenting with ways to control technology using your brain. Samsung announced last year that it has been hard at work on a tablet that you can control with your mind by wearing a cap that measures your brain’s electrical signals.
Here’s the full video from Mintz’s demo:
NOW WATCH: Tech Insider videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.