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Ants Used For Mind-Controlled Robotic Limbs

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the i-can't-feel-my-arms dept.

Robotics 82

mr sanjeev writes "Australian researchers are reducing the divide between science fiction and science reality by bringing the development of mind-controlled robotic limbs a few steps closer. Even the most fertile science fiction imagination might not see a link between the behavior of ant colonies and the development of lifelike robotic limbs, but that is the straightforward mathematical reality of research underway at the University of Technology, Sydney. The technology mimics the myoelectric signals used by the central nervous system (CNS) to control muscle activity. Artificial intelligence researchers have long used the complex interactions between ants to construct a pattern recognition formula to identify bioelectric signals. PhD student Rami Khushaba said 'swarm-intelligence' allows scientists to understand the body's electrical signals and use the knowledge to create a robotic prosthetic device that can be operated by human thought."

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82 comments

I for one... (5, Funny)

BattleApple (956701) | more than 5 years ago | (#26060889)

found this article very interesting

Re:I for one... (2, Funny)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#26061551)

Esp this part:

"You get signals from each censor mounted on the forearm"

The censorship level in Australia is higher than I thought :).

Re:I for one... (1)

imamac (1083405) | more than 5 years ago | (#26061719)

I too, found it interesting. But anyone who has read "Prey", by Michael Crichton (God rest his soul) knows that we are now one step closer to being mimicked and destroyed by swarms miniature robots with swarm intelligence.

Re:I for one... (2, Interesting)

EdZ (755139) | more than 5 years ago | (#26062867)

Anyone who has read Prey and has a modicum of knowledge on how nanomachines actually work, however, knows that Michael Crichton doesn't know a scanning electron microscope from his own elbow. Obligatory link [nanotech-now.com].

Re:I for one... (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 5 years ago | (#26065691)

Crichton created great stories and characters, but his grounding in science was tenuous at best, especially for being a doctor. None of his writings stand up to scientific scrutiny.

Re:I for one... (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#26093881)

The point is, that this was not the point.
Else he would have written a scientific paper.

Re:I for one... (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097207)

The problem is when the layperson THINKS that it's valid science. Then you get knee-jerk retarded legislation voted through because people are stupid.

Re:I for one... (1)

imamac (1083405) | more than 5 years ago | (#26066869)

Anyone who has read imamac's post and has a modicum of a sense of humor, however, knows that imamac was being facetious.

Re:I for one... (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#26063727)

Unless those nanobots have an amazing source of energy, it's going to be very hard for them to destroy us or other stuff physically - as in tear us apart, or break us down.

If it were so simple, bacteria, fungi or insects would have consumed everything already.

If the nanobots could "eat" us to build more nanobots, that means bacteria, fungi or insects could eat those nanobots too - unless they're doing some transmutation of elements.

They'll have to compete with tons of stuff out there that's been "tested and proven" for millions or even billions of years.

If it does turn out that the nanobots are toxic - like asbestos particles, or can somehow parasite us (or other desirable creatures) just as viruses or other microorganisms do, then that's a problem to us.

Re:I for one... (1)

Kagura (843695) | more than 5 years ago | (#26064421)

found this article very interesting

Thank you, sir. I still have hope for humanity after this. :)

Okay, be honest... (5, Funny)

Gideon Wells (1412675) | more than 5 years ago | (#26060923)

Be honest, raise your hand if the first thing you thought of when seeing that title was:

+++ Divide By Cucumber Error. Please Reinstall Universe And Reboot +++

One thing is for certain there is no stopping them (0, Redundant)

Lord_Breetai (66113) | more than 5 years ago | (#26060949)

the ants will soon be here. And I for one welcome our new insect overlords.

Re:One thing is for certain there is no stopping t (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26061039)

They're already here. They ruined my picnic this past summer.

Re:One thing is for certain there is no stopping t (2, Insightful)

Verdatum (1257828) | more than 5 years ago | (#26061517)

The entire reason this article was posted to slashdot was so that people could make this reference, and feel damn clever about it.

Re:One thing is for certain there is no stopping t (1)

Lord_Breetai (66113) | more than 5 years ago | (#26062527)

And it still gets modded redundant, even though it's the third post in here. Tough crowd.

An interview with a REAL, LIVE ANT should help... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26060961)

Trollaxor: Hey, RMS, what the fuck is up? I'm glad I got the opportunity to perform this interview with you. [coughs]

RMS: Hello, Mr. Trollaxor. I'm glad I got the opportunity to speak to another individual, interested in Free Software, that will eventually reach millions with the message I wish to express in this interview.

Trollaxor: Yeah, whatever. Let's get this over with. Firstly, let's talk about the origins of GNU. We all know it's Not UNIX. But where, exactly, did it come from? What was your prime inspiration for such a fine, grand, practical idea?

RMS: I'm glad you asked that.

Trollaxor: I'm not.

RMS: Ah [laughs]. You have a unique sense of humor, comrade Trollaxor!

Trollaxor: I know. And don't call me comrade. Or your friend, ally, brother, homey... I don't even like you. Now answer the question.

RMS: Ah, [laughs] Yes. GNU. Well, after reading the works of Marx and Lenin, and having attended MIT and created several programs (GCC among them, of course) to which the source code was freely (as in speech, and beer) available, I began to see a certain communal effort begin to take shape among the software developers in the labs where I worked. However, the "administration" at MIT improperly thought that, since my works were created at MIT, they, and their source, belonged to MIT. This was in conflict with my embryonic philosphyâ"

Trollaxor: Hey, could you just cut your ideological bullshit and get to the part where you were taking a dump and farted out the GNU/Free Software concept as we know it today?

RMS: Ah, I don't think I know what you're referring to, Mr. Trollaxor. And I certainly don't remember any toilet episodes being involved with the creation of GNU or Free Software.

Trollaxor: Oh really? It's hard for me to imagine a toilet not having been involved in the creation of Free Software. No, I'm talking about how one day you were sitting in a stall at MIT's grand restroom facilities, peeped thru the glory hole bored in the stall wall to look for customers, and saw a man's ass tatooed with a bull or yak or something?

RMS: WHAT!?

Trollaxor: Okay, okay, okay. Let's move on. How about your musical talents? From graphics posted at your homepage, it looks like you're fairly proficient on the flute. How's you obtain that talent?

RMS: That's rather simple: just a lot of practice and determination. The instruments you've seen me playing on my website are plan-pipes, actually, and not flutes. I began taking lessons from my father while him and I were still talking. I can play the flute, however, and--

Trollaxor: Skin-flute.

RMS: Excuse me?

Trollaxor: You heard me. Skin-flute. You play the skin-flute. That's why you're so good on those porn-pipes or whatever the Hell you called them. You are a skin-flute virtuoso and can play them like nobody's business. "Master skin-flutist RMS." Skin-flute.

RMS: Ah, I think this interview's getting a little off-track from its focus of Free Software and the GNU philosphy.

Trollaxor: Of course it is. And why the fuck do you begin every sentence with "ah?" Anyway, I'll indulge you. New question. What's all this I hear about you dropping acid like there's not tomorrow?

RMS: Hey, look, I'm willing to spend my time discussing and even debating about the GNU concept and Free Software. I'm a very busy man--

Trollaxor: No you're not.

RMS: I'm a very busy man and I simply cannot tolerate spending my valuable time digressing onto useless topics, much less helping you slander my good nameâ"

Trollaxor: Shut up.

RMS: I believe we're talking at cross-purposes here and I wish to terminate this interview now.

Trollaxor: I believe your style is cross-dressing and I wish to inform you've been trolled. Do you know what a DGH is?

RMS: What? Excuse me? I said I wanted to stop this interview now!

Trollaxor: A "DGH" is a Dirty GNU Hippie. You're a DGH. You're a pinko Commy too. Learn to bath, shave, and wipe your ass properly, and we in the Ministry of Love will welcome you with open arms. Good day, Corporal Crapola of the GNU Commando!

The potential is staggering (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26061019)

Now you can have a robotic limb on top of every anthill. The ants will no longer have to carry measly pieces of grains or berries back to the hill - they can work in concert and use the mighty grasp of a robotic arm. How will you compete in this brave new world, mankind?

I for one welcome... (1)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | more than 5 years ago | (#26065141)

Our new robotic ant overlords ;)

Well I for one... (2, Insightful)

NoobixCube (1133473) | more than 5 years ago | (#26065323)

Welcome our new thought-controlled battle mech piloting ant overlords. Why would they stop at human size, when they could become 60 feet tall and kick over OUR homes?!

Meh. (5, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#26061027)

The problem is, they spend so much time trying to get it to interface with the nerves in the same way as the original limb. Ideally, sure, we'd like it to go that way. But that's a long way off.

If they could just get it to read some signals, any signals, the methods for controlling it could be learned by the recipient.

Humans are born with the capability of mastering our limbs; fine motor coordination isn't something we're born with, it's learned. Why try to write software to do that?

Re:Meh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26061557)

true, but like the saying goes, you can't teach an old dog new tricks, why spend more time relearning what you already had down?

Re:Meh. (4, Interesting)

tristanreid (182859) | more than 5 years ago | (#26062035)

I agree completely. Trying to calibrate to the specific signals from the human brain is solving the wrong problem. The most awesome capability that our brains have is the ability to adapt. Spend more time on processing the signals in the arm-end for execution, and in sending tactile feedback signals back. It might be nearly impossible for a person to use for a while, but once the brain figures it out and starts rerouting itself, it will seem perfectly natural.

An analogy: if you have a car, and you're trying to build a better road, you should focus on improving the surface of the road, not on a mechanism that reaches up to help push the car along. The "move the car" problem is sufficiently solved that your efforts will probably just get in the way.

-t.

Re:Meh. (1)

sabt-pestnu (967671) | more than 5 years ago | (#26062681)

> Humans are born with the capability of mastering our limbs; fine motor coordination isn't something we're born with, it's learned. Why try to write software to do that?

Perhaps because a flailing arm dope slap with a flesh-and-blood limb can hurt, a flailing arm dope slap with a prosthetic limb can hurt LOTS.

Re:Meh. (1)

AceJohnny (253840) | more than 5 years ago | (#26063179)

Humans are born with the capability of mastering our limbs; fine motor coordination isn't something we're born with, it's learned. Why try to write software to do that?

Because that capability is mostly lost after your very young age. The brain loses plasticity, it can't rewire itself as easily when you're grown up.

Re:Meh. (2, Interesting)

jvkjvk (102057) | more than 5 years ago | (#26063347)

Bah. Your comment is old and outdated, except in the general sense.

Yes, it is not as easy for older people to learn (rewire). That doesn't mean it is impossible, or even *that hard*.

We also used to think that the body never grew any new brain cells. Now we know that's incorrect, too.

The adult human brain is much more plastic than your comment seems to imply.

Re:Meh. (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 5 years ago | (#26065901)

My Grandpa learned how to play Sudoku before he died. You don't absorb as quickly as a younger person, but it most certainly is possible, and it has been shown to be very beneficial for the health of older people to keep learning and keep an active mind.

Re:Meh. (1)

YenTheFirst (1056960) | more than 5 years ago | (#26071403)

...You don't absorb as quickly as a younger person,...

This is said quite often, but I propose that perhaps people just have a perception that young people learn faster, because one becomes more aware of the passage of time as one gets older. It takes newborns around a year before they have any mobility, and even longer before they start to begin to speak.

Re:Meh. (1)

Kyle3om (1421333) | more than 5 years ago | (#26063221)

At birth you have many more neurons than are needed for motor control and they are indeed fine tuned for coordination, but in adults there is far less plasticity in neuron growth/death. If you read the article it says a big part of what they are doing is determining best position for electrode placement. Well this isn't wholely different than what any other research lab does. The method being used it was makes this article unique otherwise we have monkeys trained to use robotic limbs with their thoughts right now. The research being done does not sound that useful when compared to what is already been done and is being polished in labs right now. The lab is just trying to get a wow-factor article because they are probably low on funding and hope to get noticed by DARPA. If the defense dept. funds foreign labs I cant say though.

Re:Meh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26064865)

From what I understand, existing cyborg limbs work much as you describe. This is a logical next step.

Why do Chinese people use Pyrex? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26061049)

This is completely off-topic, but I can't think of a better forum to ask it.

At every tech workplace I've been to, the Chinese people all bring their lunches in Pyrex glass containers. No tupperware or other plastics in sight. The Pyrex containers do have a plastic lid... BUT, when they microwave their food, they take the plastic lid off and put a paper towel over the dish. Is this something that all Chinese people are taught to do? It seems like such a weird thing to have in common as a people.

Re:Why do Chinese people use Pyrex? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26061277)

I don't know the answer to your question, but while we're stereotyping the Chinese, I have another observation. Chinese people, by and large, drive beige Toyotas. Our parking lot at work is riddled with them.

I like this idea (5, Funny)

Technopaladin (858154) | more than 5 years ago | (#26061095)

Hope they use Army ants or Fire ants. Robots that destroy everyting in their path or squirt acid cocktails would freaking rock. THe first 2 prosthetics available sould be Mandibles and stingers. then they can branch out into other insectoid robot prosthetics like Pinchers, Scorpion tails and wings. I forsee a bold new future.

Re:I like this idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26064335)

THE MONARCH!

Go team Venture!

Paging Dr. Pym.... (4, Funny)

Churla (936633) | more than 5 years ago | (#26061139)

Question is who will be the first to reverse engineer their prosthetic arm to control ants instead?

Ants in the pants (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26061161)

Mind Control = Ant's in the pants ?

This experiment... (1)

Urger (817972) | more than 5 years ago | (#26061217)

This experiment was performed in the High Energy Magic building, wasn't it? /Anthill Inside

I For One Welcome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26061273)

Our Ant Like Robotic overlords

Is this why... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26061413)

... if your foot falls asleep, it feels like there's ants running around on it?

we're making progress (3, Interesting)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#26061415)

I'm looking forward to the day when I can crush someone's throat with the power of my evil bionic hand. Until then, I'll just have to choke them by roasting habanero peppers in a dry skillet.

I wonder how long it'll take for artificial limbs to become perfect substitutes, the kind of thing you can even forget you have. My glasses are so much a part of me and so light, I could easily forget I'm wearing them aside from the bit about things not being blurry. I wonder what it would take for an artificial hand to be good enough to play piano, type on a keyboard, providing perfect sensory feedback and accuracy.

What's the hard part about wiring the limbs up to the nerves? I remember reading about a special adhesive developed that could be sticky on one end for nerves, a proper digital interface on the other side, and the signals would be transmitted properly.

Re:we're making progress (1)

drspliff (652992) | more than 5 years ago | (#26062177)

I presume it wouldn't need to provide perfect sensory feedback, the way we adapt to use new tools which essentially extend our own hands and become a part of our body means that they just have to be good enough to provide the basic functions and we'll work out how to use it best.

For example if you removed a finger and placed it in the palm of the hand, even if it's sense was extremely numbed you would eventually learn to make good use of it (as has been shown with everybody who's had limbs removed or relies on aids to make them capable).

Re:we're making progress (3, Funny)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 5 years ago | (#26063381)

I wonder what it would take for an artificial hand to be good enough to play piano, type on a keyboard

Or, masturbate.

Come on, we're all thinking it. ;-)

Cheers

Why limit yourself to simply recreating nature? (1)

Nick Ives (317) | more than 5 years ago | (#26064287)

You could give yourself a hand with a vagina like hole in the palm, for example. You could learn how to open it with thought or manipulate it in other ways and it'd also be useful for holding random things like your phone rather than putting it down, picking something else up, moving that, putting it down and then picking your original item up.

These types of mind-controlled prosthesis are just the beginning. When we know how to link mechanical devices to our brains we can start using alternative limbterfaces (just coined that one!) and training ourselves to use those instead of our familiar arms and legs.

Re:Why limit yourself to simply recreating nature? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 5 years ago | (#26065055)

These types of mind-controlled prosthesis are just the beginning. When we know how to link mechanical devices to our brains we can start using alternative limbterfaces (just coined that one!) and training ourselves to use those instead of our familiar arms and legs.

I for one welcome our new limbterface overlords. :-P

It might be jarring to start seeing people with strange limb configurations, let alone additions for self gratification -- nobody would shake your hand for instance.

Besides, I should think that having a hand with a hole in it like a vagina would make things like eating smarties difficult. And, who is going to ask their doctor for the Wank-Master 9000 upgrade for their prosthetic? I mean, a vagina in the middle of your palm?

Cheers

Re:Why limit yourself to simply recreating nature? (1)

jahudabudy (714731) | more than 5 years ago | (#26066291)

And, who is going to ask their doctor for the Wank-Master 9000 upgrade for their prosthetic? I mean, a vagina in the middle of your palm?

What, you think people have shame?! Believe me, my friend, they do not. Lack of shame is practically considered a virtue in modern Western society.

Thanks a lot... (1)

tool462 (677306) | more than 5 years ago | (#26065917)

Actually, I wasn't, until you said it. Now I can't get the image out of my brain. Damn you!

Re:we're making progress (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26066459)

Yeah but if you DON'T have tactile sensation in it, then it feels like someone else's hand! heck that's the whole point of cutting off that arm's circulation until it falls asleep before jacking with it.

What? What are you looking at me like that for? Like you haven't done it.

Re:we're making progress (1)

tim447 (552776) | more than 5 years ago | (#26075223)

Wouldn't sticky on one end for nerves involve bare nerve endings? That prosthetic had damn well better not need to be removed ever...

What's going on here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26061419)

I was told there would be sugar syrup!

Hogfather reference (1)

altecodger (1268182) | more than 5 years ago | (#26061775)

As a smart consumer, I'll be sure to look for the artificial limb carrying the "Anthill Inside" sticker.

Automated Alice (1)

BeardedChimp (1416531) | more than 5 years ago | (#26062403)

"Even the most fertile science fiction imagination might not see a link between the behavior of ant colonies and the development of lifelike robotic limbs" The author clearly hasn't read Jeff Noon's excellent book (although it's termites in it's case)

less than 256 milliseconds? (2, Interesting)

Brandano (1192819) | more than 5 years ago | (#26062423)

That for me means somewhere in the 250-255 milliseconds range, which is still a quarter of a second. That doesn't seem particularly fast to me. Not fast enough for driving or catching falling objects, for example. True cyborg implants are still some way away in the future.

Re:less than 256 milliseconds? (1)

WAG24601G (719991) | more than 5 years ago | (#26065699)

Not fast enough for driving or catching falling objects

Well, that depends on how far these objects are falling :)

As for driving, it might be more plausible than you think. A full reaction-time circuit (sensory->cognitive->motor) takes in the neighborhood of 200ms for most folks anyway. Certainly this is considerably slower, but probably not less than 1/3 speed. Impaired driving? Yes. Moreso than the elderly or others with normal reaction time handicaps? Maybe not.

Picking the right signals from the brain (2, Interesting)

tristanreid (182859) | more than 5 years ago | (#26062435)

Just had a thought: It must be difficult to program the artificial limb to respond to the correct signals. If you told me to flex a specific muscle, I'd actually have a pretty hard time isolating it and doing it. If I no longer had the muscle in question, it would be even harder. It makes me wonder, is that really how the nervous system works? Maybe we don't have a 'wire' from the brain to each muscle, we instead have a set of motions that we perform, each involving several muscles. Our brains can decide between those sets, and can use combinations of the sets to 'tweak' the movement. If the brain finds that a motion is impossible given the current set, it can work on evolving a new set, but that process would only be possible with a fairly involved training process, a reroute of the neural pathways.

What if you told people to go through a set of motions that involved other muscles as well, and used the intersections of the signals and muscles involved to isolate the correct signals? Maybe the story in the past couple days about replicating the Mona Lisa using polygons is a good analogy. The goal is to find a minimal set of signals (polygons) that form a basis for complete functionality.

-t.

Ant slavery is inhumane! (1)

TravisO (979545) | more than 5 years ago | (#26063103)

Who will lead the fight in liberating the ant slaves from their amputee masters?

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