Robotics seems to be one of the biggest potential hot items in the future. And following closely on its heels is the possibility of machines that could be controlled using brainwaves. When you combine the two, there is a great deal of potential for a fusion that would allow us to be in two places at the same time. But just like in the Hollywood film “Surrogates,” these robotic counterparts could have their own benefits and drawbacks as well. Will we one day see a world where robots could be controlled by brain activity? The answer is, we may already.
In the early stages of the brain imaging development the technique was used exclusively for medical purposes. Over time the potential of brainwave technology continued to develop interesting new technological achievements and products. Finally by the spring of 2008 a robotic arm had been developed controlled by neural impulses that was so easy to use it was connected to the brain of a monkey. By the end of the experiment scientists were seeing a whole new future unfolding for people with disabilities and mobility limitations.
But this raised an interesting question for scientists. The words mobility limitation had been used up until that point to describe the afflictions of those who were paralyzed, missing limbs, or otherwise impeded in their movement through the world. But with discoveries such as these we quickly were able to point out the limitations shared not only by those with the ailments but the whole of humanity. And so progress started being made to control other devices with our minds.
The same year a chimpanzee was hooked up to a robotic arm it could control with its own brainwaves a team of engineers began development on a car that could be driven entirely by mental impulses as well. By March of this year a series of controlled tests had been conducted allowing a vehicle to be driven by a fleet of cars controlled by an advanced navigation system and choices made by the brain. Essentially the manual input of the driver was no longer entering into the equation, along with several of the limitations involved.
So what will the year 2015 bring us? Will we have fully powered robotic suits by 2020? If the technology on this level doesn’t look promising enough, consider the fact that we already have a robot in the form of Honda’s “Big Dog” and “Little Dog” prototypes that can run and walk with all the dexterity of a living being even on rough terrain. The Asimo robot also by Honda has proven to be a considerable feat of engineering, although the system is at the moment fairly expensive and slow. But consider how expensive and slow computers were just before the IT revolution. And now we not only have computers capable of transmitting information a great distance at incredible speeds, but the capabilities of what this digital revolution brought us exceeded the imaginations of even some science fiction writers. Will robotics prove to be the same? Only time will tell.