Soldiers Control Robotic Dog by Thought

New technology is making mind reading possible with positive implications for the fields of healthcare, aerospace and advanced manufacturing. The technology was recently demonstrated by the Australian Army, where soldiers operated a Ghost Robotics quadruped robot using the brain-machine interface. Photo supplied by Australian Army. Researchers from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) have developed biosensor technology that will allow you to operate devices, such as robots and machines, solely through thought-control. The advanced brain-computer interface was developed by Distinguished Professor Chin-Teng Lin and Professor Francesca Iacopi, from the UTS Faculty of Engineering and IT, in collaboration with the Australian Army and Defence Innovation Hub. As well as defence applications, the technology has significant potential in fields such as advanced manufacturing, aerospace and healthcare – for example allowing people with a disability to control a wheelchair or operate prosthetics.


The hands-free, voice-free technology works outside laboratory settings, anytime, anywhere. It makes interfaces such as consoles, keyboards, touchscreens and hand-gesture recognition redundant,” said Professor Iacopi. “By using cutting edge graphene material, combined with silicon, we were able to overcome issues of corrosion, durability and skin contact resistance, to develop the wearable dry sensors,” she said.

A new study shows that the graphene sensors developed at UTS are very conductive, easy to use and robust. The hexagon patterned sensors are positioned over the back of the scalp, to detect brainwaves from the visual cortex. The sensors are resilient to harsh conditions so they can be used in extreme operating environments. The user wears a head-mounted augmented reality lens which displays white flickering squares. By concentrating on a particular square, the brainwaves of the operator are picked up by the biosensor, and a decoder translates the signal into commands.

The technology was recently demonstrated by the Australian Army, where soldiers operated a Ghost Robotics quadruped robot using the brain-machine interface. The device allowed hands-free command of the robotic dog with up to 94% accuracy. “Our technology can issue at least nine commands in two seconds. This means we have nine different kinds of commands and the operator can select one from those nine within that time period,” Professor Lin said. “We have also explored how to minimise noise from the body and environment to get a clearer signal from an operator’s brain,” he said.

The researchers believe the technology will be of interest to the scientific community, industry and government, and hope to continue making advances in brain-computer interface systems.


How To Merge Your Brain With A.I.

Elon Musk said startup Neuralink, which aims to build a scalable implant to connect human brains with computers, has already implanted chips in rats and plans to test its brain-machine interface in humans within two years, with a long-term goal of peoplemerging with AI.” Brain-machine interfaces have been around for awhile. Some of the earliest success with the technology include Brown University’s BrainGate, which first enabled a paralyzed person to control a computer cursor in 2006. Since then a variety of research groups and companies, including the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and DARPA-backed Synchron, have been working on similar devices. There are two basic approaches: You can do it invasively, creating an interface with an implant that directly touches the brain, or you can do it non-invasively, usually by electrodes placed near the skin. (The latter is the approach used by startup CTRL-Labs, for example.)

Neuralink, says Musk, is going to go the invasive route. It’s developed a chip containing an array of up to 96 small, polymer threads, each with up to 32 electrodes that can be implanted into the brain via robot and a 2 millimeter incision. The threads are small — less than 6 micrometers — because, as Musk noted in remarks delivered Tuesday night and webcast, Once implanted, according to Musk, the chip would connect wirelessly to devices. “It basically Bluetooths to your phone,” he said. “We’ll have to watch the App Store updates to that one,” he added (the audience laughed).

Musk cofounded Neuralink in 2017 and serves as the company’s CEO, though it’s unclear how much involvement he has given that he’s also serving as CEO for SpaceX and Tesla. Company cofounder and president, Max Hodak, has a biomedical engineering degree from Duke and has cofounded two other companies, MyFit and Transcriptic. Neuralink has raised $66.27 million in venture funding so far, according to Pitchbook, which estimates the startup’s valuation at $509.3 million. Both Musk and Hodak spoke about the potential for its company’s neural implants to improve the lives of people with brain damage and other brain disabilities. Its first goal, based on its discussions with such patients, is the ability to control a mobile device.

The company’s long-term goal is a bit more fantastical, and relates to Musk’s oft-repeated concerns over the dangers of advanced artificial intelligence. That goal is to use the company’s chips to create a “tertiary level” of the brain that would be linked to artificial intelligence.We can effectively have the option of merging with AI,” he said. “After solving a bunch of brain related diseases there is the mitigation of the existential threat of AI,” he continued.


In terms of progress, the company says that it has built a chip and a robot to implant it, which it has implanted into rats. According to the whitepaper the company has published (which has not yet undergone any peer review), it was able to record rat brain activity from its chips, and with many more channels than exist on current systems in use with humans. The first human clinical trials are expected for next year, though Hodak mentioned that the company has not yet begun to the FDA processes needed to conduct those tests.