back to article Quadriplegic woman demos advanced mind-control of robot arm

Scientists from the University of Pittsburg report amazing success with a new kind of brain interface that allows a quadriplegic woman to demonstrate fine motor controls with a robot arm. Guinea pig Jan Scheuermann, who has been paralyzed for nearly a decade, had two 4mm-by-4mm chips implanted in her brain, one in the area …


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  1. banjomike
    Thumb Up

    Damn, that is brilliant!

    Wonder what brand of chocolate it was.

    1. Graham O'Brien

      Re: Damn, that is brilliant!

      Agreed. Apart from the fact that chocolate is a basic human right, this is the kind of stuff that restores my faith in the humanitarian possibilities for technology. This is what we should be doing: using technology to overcome disadvantage.

      1. Darryl
        Thumb Up

        Re: Damn, that is brilliant!

        Pretty damn cool, alright!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Thumb Up

          Re: Damn, that is brilliant!

          Indeed so. I'm happy for Jan!

      2. James Micallef Silver badge

        Re: Damn, that is brilliant!

        Amazingly cool and amazingly life-changing for so many people.

        Especially this " advanced to the point where she doesn't have to consciously control each movement .... but she just thinks of the target action and the arm does the rest. " is key, because it means that with advanced enough robotics / prosthetics, para/quadri-plagics and amputees can have a range of freedom of action comparable to someone with 4 functioning limbs.

        Although I guess it's also a first step towards our cybernetic terminator overlords :o

    2. Piro Silver badge

      Re: Damn, that is brilliant!

      Good point. Since is in the US, I hope it isn't their nasty chocolate made with sour milk and butyric acid to stabilise it. Oh, and Polyglycerol polyricinoleate - because cocoa butter is too expensive.

  2. Charles 9 Silver badge

    Well I'll be. It's actually getting there.

    Direct brain control of robotic/cyborg limbs. Science fiction is actually creeping closer to science fact. I would say this level of control shows that most of the MMI part is getting pretty nailed, and that's the hard part. Now it's mostly a matter of compacting the technology to make it more portable: a well-trodden and not-insurmountable problem. It's mostly a matter of time at this point.

    And even on the consumer front, reading brain activity to perform control functions (either real or virtual) is making progress as well. For some, this might be scary, but for other it could be a thrilling new possibility in the realm of manual operations.

    1. sisk

      Re: Well I'll be. It's actually getting there.

      Personally I think the average consumer would be hesitant to get a brain implant to control their computer, at least for now. I know I certainly hesitate at that idea. The next generation may not be quite so hesitant about it.

      I do, however, greatly anticipate the helmet based approach to BCI.

  3. JDX Gold badge

    I'm not sure which is more amazing, our leaps in technology or the ability of the brain to automatically reconfigure itself to understand how to communicate with a microchip that's been crudely rammed into place.

    Actually, I am sure :) The science is absolutely wonderful but in my view, the more we advance in computing, the more amazing the brain is in comparison.

    1. Pet Peeve

      Sauce please

      Has anyone found any live video? I would love to see how fluid the arm movement is.

      1. Pet Peeve

        Re: Sauce please

        Dang, two minutes after I asked, I found a mini-documentary about it, very uplifting, so to speak:

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  5. Ryan 7
    Black Helicopters

    Promotional consideration furnished by Sarif Industries

    Now where's my Neuropazine?

  6. Fink-Nottle


    I guess the next step is a cochlear implant style interface and wearable orthoses / exoskeletons.

    I wonder if the connection could bridge an injury and connect to a spinal cord below a lesion?

    1. Pet Peeve

      Re: Exellent

      The signal is coming directly from her brain, so it should certainly be possible to use the same signals to drive a muscle stimulator. The technology exists in some form already, I've seen demos of paraplegics standing up and even walking a step or two. That would require that the limb still have some strength and be otherwise undamaged, which doesn't appear to be the case here.

      Every once in a while, you see a video like this and realize that flying cars or no, we ARE living in the future.

      1. Kevin Johnston

        Re: Exellent

        There is always Claire Lomas who this year completed the London marathon course this year wearing a robotic suit. She was paralysed as the result of a horse riding accident but managed to walk about a mile each day to get round the course thanks to the suit. It uses 'muscle twitch' sensors rather than an implant but it is a good indicator that things are coming together.

  7. MrXavia
    Thumb Up

    This is amazing, it won't be long until we have real cyborgs!

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Won't be long?

      Um... We DO have cyborgs. Just not much like Steve Austin.

      We are at the wired Telegraph stage still, but progressing.

    2. Oninoshiko

      Re: real cyborgs

      The lady is a real cyborg.

      TBH, I can't imagine being a quadriplegic, but I do image, if I where, having my mind control a hand for the first time in a decade would have me smiling ear-to-ear for the next month. This is a huge advance, and I only hope we can use it to expand on what she can do, and help more people like her.

    3. John 62

      know anyone with a pacemaker?

      that's sort of cyborg-y!

  8. Fatman

    RE: "One small nibble for a woman, one giant bite for BCI," she said.

    Made me laugh!

    I have profound respect for her willingness to be a "guinea pig" in furtherance of the development of the technology. The potential for seriously improving the quality of life for those who have suffered spinal cord injuries is astonishing.

    That "Six Million Dollar Man" may soon become a reality. It can't happen soon enough for many.

  9. Johnny Canuck

    I for one

    welcome our new robotic arm controlling cyborg overlords.

  10. Bill Posters


    To all involved, especially Jan!

    However, you'd want to be very careful about controlling your thoughts... wandering hands....

  11. Anonymous Coward

    So this Friday isn't the end of the world then...

    its just the day that Skynet AKA the NK Washing Machine in Space, becomes sentient...

    1. sisk

      Re: So this Friday isn't the end of the world then...

      Yeah and with the trajectory it's on it'll become sentient just in time to say 'Is it just me or is it getting hot? Oh, dear, I'm burning up on reentry. Damn human designers. I'll kill them a....."

  12. Stacy

    After all of the awful news recently

    It is so wonderful to read something uplifting like this.

    And her quote is wonderful too!

    As has been said, it is amazing just what we can do these days. And it's even more amazing just what the brain can do!

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  14. tomban

    A brain-controlled robot called Hector...

    ...what could possibly go wrong?

    1. Lord Voldemortgage

      Re: A brain-controlled robot called Hector...

      "Oh, what has science wrought? I sought only to turn a man into a metal-encased juggernaut of destruction powered by the unknown properties of a mysterious living crystal. How could this have all gone wrong?"

  15. monkeyfish


    Now all they need to do is get with the honda asimo people and shes got a fully working servant. Controlled by thought. Or hook it up to the wheelchair to drive her wherever she wants. Possibilities are endless.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Asimo

      Now you're thinking. A motor wheelchair that can be controlled with thought would be very uplifting to people like her who can't even move an arm.

  16. SealTeam6

    Cyber woman

    You will become like us ...

  17. Lamont Cranston

    I can't like this enough.

    Nice one, science! Still, it's only a matter of time before she puts the hand to better use, crushing the skulls of those who would oppose her - go girl!

  18. Bucky 2

    Am I a bad person...?

    Am I the only one who thought of the Bob Hope movie, "Road to Hong Kong?"

    The part I'm thinking of is here, about 8 minutes in:

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: Am I a bad person...?

      Dunno, but I was thinking of an episode of The Big Bang Theory - where Howard has, cough, problems with a robotic hand.

  19. John 62

    Cortical implants?

    Next stop nanoprobes.

    Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

    (No 7 of 9 Teritary Adjunct Unamatrix 0 or Locutus of the Borg icon?)

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