TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Honda Says Brain Waves Control Robot

Honda Says Brain Waves Control Robot

Yuri Kageyama (
Wed, 24 May 2006 22:44:43 -0500

By YURI KAGEYAMA, AP Business Writer

In a step toward linking a person's thoughts to machines, Japanese
automaker Honda said it has developed a technology that uses brain
signals to control a robot's very simple moves.

In the future, the technology that Honda Motor Co. developed with ATR
Computational Neuroscience Laboratories could be used to replace
keyboards or cell phones, researchers said Wednesday. It also could
have applications in helping people with spinal cord injuries, they

In a video demonstration in Tokyo, brain signals detected by a
magnetic resonance imaging scanner were relayed to a robotic hand. A
person in the MRI machine made a fist, spread his fingers and then
made a V-sign. Several seconds later, a robotic hand mimicked the

Further research would be needed to decode more complex movements.

The machine for reading the brain patterns also would have to become
smaller and lighter -- like a cap that people can wear as they move
about, said ATR researcher Yukiyasu Kamitani.

What Honda calls a "brain-machine interface" is an improvement over
past approaches, such as those that required surgery to connect
wires. Other methods still had to train people in ways to send brain
signals or weren't very accurate in reading the signals, Kamitani

Honda officials said the latest research was important not only for
developing intelligence for the company's walking bubble-headed robot,
Asimo, but also for future auto technology.

"There is a lot of potential for application to autos such as safety
measures," said Tomohiko Kawanabe, president of Honda Research
Institute Japan Co.

Asimo, about 50 inches tall, can talk, walk and dance. It's available
only for rental but is important for Honda's image and has appeared at
events and TV ads.

At least another five years are probably needed before Asimo starts
moving according to its owner's mental orders, according to Honda.

Right now, Asimo's metallic hand can't even make a V-sign.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.

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