Tuesday, 29 October 2013

First cyborg aims for telepathy


Shashidhar K J & B PRADEEP NAIR, TNN Nov 24, 2012, 04.02AM IST
Ref Source
The Times of India
BANGALORE: Robots marrying and voting in elections. Accident victims being able to send command to their artificial limbs.
All entirely possible, according to cybernetics guru Prof Kevin Warwick. He was here on Friday to deliver The Pinkerton Lecture, organized by the Institution of Engineering and Technology.

Warwick, celebrated as the first cyborg (a superhuman who has both biological and artificial parts in the body), is best known for being the world's first human to have a chip surgically implanted in his arm and conducting experiments on himself.
Warwick told TOI about his research in direct interfaces between humans and computer systems, robotics and artificial intelligence. "I'm a regular human now, but I still have some wires left from the last experiment. But they're not doing anything," he said.
His first implant was an RFID (radio frequency identification) transmitter in May 1998 which he used to automate his lab. His lab's doors in Reading University, UK, had many magnetic coils which could detect his transmitter and open doors automatically, and boot up his computer when he walked in. He wanted to see if the body could accept an external implant.
"I had an implant in my left arm and word got around, and ever since many, including James Bond (in Casino Royale), got a similar implant," Warwick said. In the West, RFID tags are used increasingly in pets to keep track of them. "This must be the first instance where we tested a technology on humans before using them on animals!" he quipped.
Next, he tried to interface with machines more directly. He had tiny electrodes in his left median nerve for about three months. They were connected to a gauntlet-like device on his arm which could use the electrical signals of the nervous system to control an external robot via the internet.
The robot designed by Warwick's colleague Peter Kyberd could mimic the actions of Warwick's arm. And sensors from the robot were able to transmit signals back to Warwick's nervous system and he could "feel" the robot. "It took me about six weeks to recognize the electrical signals," he said. "They weren't painful or anything, but they kept coming. I knew it was the robot." Warwick explained. The more pressure he applied using the robot, the more frequent the signals got.
Human exchange
Warwick tried to see if it was possible to transmit signals between humans. Another simpler array was implanted into the arm of his wife Irina, and they were able to sync their nervous systems and send Morse codes via their nervous systems.
Now, he's planning implants in his brain which can enable telepathy. Irina isn't too thrilled about it and the dangers of his experiments.
Warwick feels his research can be used to engineer better prosthetics which can interface more directly with a paraplegics' nervous system. Currently, advanced prosthetics interface with muscles which allow electrodes to flex and move.
"I hope to excite future generations about brain-to-brain communication," he said

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