Thursday, May 8, 2014

A 15-Year-Old Builds a Mind-Controlled Robotic Arm


Shiva Nathan is a 15-year-old boy with one huge global idea. He has made it his mission to help hundreds of thousands of amputees all over the world. Shiva took his passion for robotics to a whole new level when he developed this prosthetic arm and hand that he can control with his mind.

In 2012 Nathan set out to design a prosthesis of his own. Nathan now takes pre-college classes at MIT but at the time Nathan didn’t have access to a world-class robotics lab in which he could build an artificial arm but what he did have was a Mindwave Mobile headset by NeuroSky. A company that builds brainwave-reading headsets that enable people to play games with their thoughts, or trains them to meditate and control those thoughts. NeuroSky’s electroencephalography (EEG) headset can detect brain activity patterns associated with mental states such as concentration or relaxation, it then relays that data via Bluetooth to a computer or smartphone. Nathan hacked that hardware so he could use it to control his arm. When the wearer clears their mind, the arm’s elbow bends and waves back and forth. When they focus on a thought, such as a number, the robot fingers flex. Nathan’s two-stage creation is relatively simple and you would need to use a more sophisticated software to translate a user’s thought if they wanted to reach their arm into the sky and point a finger. This is what Neuroscientists and roboticists in some of the country’s best labs are currently working on at the moment, turning patterns of firing neurons into directions for a prosthesis. 

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