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Human Tests of Mind-Controlled Artificial Arm To Begin

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the do-what-i-mean dept.

Medicine 119

kkleiner writes "The world's first human testing of a mind-controlled artificial limb is ready to begin. A joint project between the Pentagon and Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, the Modular Prosthetic Limb will be fully controlled by sensors implanted in the brain, and will even restore the sense of touch by sending electrical impulses from the limb back to the sensory cortex. Last week APL announced it had been awarded a $34.5M contract with DARPA, which will allow researchers to test the neural prosthetic in five individuals over the next two years."

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AWESOME! (3, Interesting)

the_macman (874383) | more than 4 years ago | (#33133744)

Excellent! First article I see after watching this [steampowered.com] . 2027 is only 17 years away!!! :D

Re:AWESOME! (1)

tagno25 (1518033) | more than 4 years ago | (#33133974)

That looks like a Ghost in The Shell based game. Even the personal cloak and the ships are very similar. Of course it would be based years before Ghost in the Shell.

Re:AWESOME! (2, Informative)

Kenoli (934612) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134042)

The technology in ghost in the shell is quite a bit more advanced.
Full body prosthesis > arms that turn into guns.

Re:AWESOME! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33135368)

In GIS we have full mind virtualization , mind hacking, AI, ...

GIS is the very first step into the Singularity.

There is no need for a body anymore.

Re:AWESOME! (1)

The Archon V2.0 (782634) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134262)

That looks like a Ghost in The Shell based game.

... as opposed to a Deus Ex based game...?

Re:AWESOME! (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136286)

the concept of a jet engine powered osprey have been around for a while in multiple media. Iirc one of the first movies that showed something like it was the drop ship in aliens, tho that could itself have been inspired by something from earlier anime or similar.

Basically its about taking the iconic huey, optionally with its side doors slung open, and add something "futuristic" to it.

you even find such a vehicle in star wars, delivering clone troopers. Funny thing is, with its cocpit setup, ot looks almost like the russian mi-24 "hind".

Re:AWESOME! (-1, Offtopic)

kizp (1870562) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134480)

2027 Ya, it wont be long and hollywood will be tearing it up with the real robocop 1 thru a hundred. But on the real, its gonna change alot of peoples lives some will actually need Womens Classic Loafer Shoes [classicloafer.com] on there fake feet.

Re:AWESOME! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33134614)

What kind of bullshit spam was that? Mod the parent clown into oblivion please.

Re:AWESOME! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33134672)

Generally I do not post on blogs, - but I would like to say that timberland boots [mytimberlands.com] really forced me to do so! really nice post.

Re:AWESOME! (1)

lyml (1200795) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136136)

The summary is wrong, the project is not first, so 2027 is not even that far away :P.
In Sweden [youtube.com] the project is apparently already in its late stages, while this will probably not be done in another 10-20 years.

Shhhhwing! (1)

saboosh (1863538) | more than 4 years ago | (#33133750)

Do I really need to say anything else?

Re:Shhhhwing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33134370)

Yes, you need to say: "NA NA NA NA NA" [wikipedia.org]

We have the technology... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33133752)

... we can rebuild him!

Re:We have the technology... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33133842)

... we can rebuild him!

And it does work out to be roughly six million dollars a man.

Why stop at one? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33133762)

I for one welcome our new Doc Oc overlords.

Invented by a star wars fan? (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 4 years ago | (#33133782)

I notice it's called the "Luke Arm". Okay, so Luke only lost a hand, but still...

Re:Invented by a star wars fan? (2, Informative)

scdeimos (632778) | more than 4 years ago | (#33133812)

Actually it's the Modular Prosthetic Limb (MPL) - the Luke arm comes from a competitor Deka, which is owned and run by Segway inventor Dean Kamen.

Re:Invented by a star wars fan? (3, Informative)

necro81 (917438) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136428)

the Luke arm comes from a competitor Deka, which is owned and run by Segway inventor Dean Kamen

Not competitor, exactly. When DARPA started the Revolutionizing Prosthetics project some five years ago, they created two independent development paths. DEKA was tasked with making the most advanced prosthetic arm available with current technology, while APL was tasked (primarily) with developing a neural interface for a prosthetic. APL also developed an arm, which they'll be using in their trails, but you don't hear as much about that. The division was primarily between applied engineering, leading to an actual product, and research translation that is a longer-term effort.

Re:Invented by a star wars fan? (1)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134304)

Star wars fans amongst bio-engineers and roboticists? What are the odds!

Re:Invented by a star wars fan? (3, Funny)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134744)

Yeah, they should have called it "The Stranger".

But... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33133796)

But does it have a fine enough touch to be able to jack off CmdrTaco's or kdawson's micropenises?

Re:But... (1)

kurt555gs (309278) | more than 4 years ago | (#33133900)

This isn't new. Look at this from the 60's -> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HofoK_QQxGc/ [youtube.com]

Re:But... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134044)

I was thinking of The Terminal Man. Which is in charge? The brain or the arm?

"Joint Project" (4, Funny)

adamdoyle (1665063) | more than 4 years ago | (#33133798)

A joint project between the Pentagon and Johns Hopkins...

haha a joint project.

Re:"Joint Project" (2, Funny)

v1 (525388) | more than 4 years ago | (#33133824)

had to add that tag to it the moment I read the headline

Re: We have the technology... (1)

JoeMirando (594743) | more than 4 years ago | (#33133802)

You beat me to it! I WAS going to say that they must be accounting for inflation and creating five 6.9 million dollar men.

touch isn't an impulse, though... (1)

Michael Kristopeit (1751814) | more than 4 years ago | (#33133938)

touch is resistance.

Hmmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33133958)

They should use at least one 15 year old boy in the test group. That way it is sure to get a good work out...

Legal aspects? (4, Funny)

Dwonis (52652) | more than 4 years ago | (#33133962)

I wonder if this is going to run afoul of... arms-control regulations?

/me ducks

Re:Legal aspects? (1)

karlwilson (1124799) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134148)

Finally, this kind of technology is within our reach!

Re:Legal aspects? (1)

plastbox (1577037) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135340)

I put on my Arm-y Helmet and grab my Two Handed Sword, finally Munchkin [worldofmunchkin.com] is one step closer to reality!

Re:Legal aspects? (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134150)

I wonder if this is going to run afoul of... arms-control regulations?

Being sponsored by the army, a better term would be arm control rules ;)

Re:Legal aspects? (2, Funny)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134228)

the army

Re:Legal aspects? (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134510)

Yeap, like in the army control rules!.

Also, what's the correct term to designate somebody that build arms and other limbs: army or armory?
And what if the arm builder is a corporate body?

Re:Legal aspects? (1)

kainosnous (1753770) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134582)

Oh no! Now the government will start to sign disarmament treaties!

How much danger is there.... (2, Insightful)

mark-t (151149) | more than 4 years ago | (#33133990)

...connecting something directly to the human brain?

What would happen if there was a malfunction and the current levels going into the brain for sensor feedback were unregulated?

Re:How much danger is there.... (3, Funny)

HBoar (1642149) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134054)

That would lead to a zombie apocalypse, obviously.

Re:How much danger is there.... (1)

socrplayr813 (1372733) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136958)

and it's modded 70% INSIGHTFUL? (as I'm posting, anyway)

Look, I get that people thought it was funny and want to give the guy points, but come on... Welcome to Slashdot, I guess. Sometimes I wish I were a zombie; then I wouldn't be reading this stuff.

Mod me down, folks. The points obviously don't mean a damn thing anymore.

Re:How much danger is there.... (1)

AlamedaStone (114462) | more than 4 years ago | (#33137136)

The points obviously don't mean a damn thing anymore.

That's really a sad statement. I remember back when I started reading slashdot. I was a grad student, and my high karma helped keep food on the table.

Those were the days, eh?

Re:How much danger is there.... (1)

socrplayr813 (1372733) | more than 4 years ago | (#33137322)

That's not at all what I meant and I hope to insert nonexistent deity here you knew that.

There was a time, though, when an Insightful post actually was somewhat insightful.

Re:How much danger is there.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33137934)

No, there wasn't.

Re:How much danger is there.... (3, Informative)

stripathy (1870498) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134056)

Worst case scenario the neurons in that particular region would die. If the current stimulus was even higher then that local region of the brain would die and the person would no longer be able to sense his arm, or finger; but those sensations would likely regenerate because the brain is very adaptable.

Re:How much danger is there.... (1)

Kenoli (934612) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134096)

Nobody knows. It's why they're doing this research.

Barring any silly technical glitches, I don't see any particular reason it should be very dangerous.

Re:How much danger is there.... (1)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134358)

What would happen if there was a malfunction and the current levels going into the brain for sensor feedback were unregulated?

Apple's new iArm uses a secret resistor configuration to ensure that this never happens, and that all your wallet are belong to them.

Re:How much danger is there.... (2, Insightful)

cgenman (325138) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135310)

We used to bridge current directly through people's brains for therapy, at pretty high power levels. That sucker seems reasonably resilient.

Re:How much danger is there.... (1)

chichilalescu (1647065) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135824)

actually, this is still a valid question. Those huge intensities are something completely different.
We can be certain that these small fluctuating currents flowing through the brain won't kill you directly. But they could lead to erroneus sensory input, right up to the limit of psychosis. You can facilitate the appearance of illusions if you play with electromagnetic fields around a brain (I remember seeing some discussions about experiments on Discovery).
Or another thing: you can unwittingly generate some noise that is heard on a subcounscious level, increasing stress up to the point of going mad.

Because the brain is a complex circuit, you have no idea what effect some small input may have on the whole system (stupid argument: hearing a faint "help", which is a tiny input to the brain, will probably make a life guard alert, which is a kind of stress).

Re:How much danger is there.... (1)

BVis (267028) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136872)

If you're referring to electro-convulsive therapy (ECT, formerly known as 'shock therapy'), they still use it [wikipedia.org] to treat mental illness. It's done as a quick outpatient procedure. Seems barbaric, but apparently it works.

Re:How much danger is there.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33135482)

Breaker mechanisms. It would be trivial to filter all signals through a silicon chip built from a mathematically proven algorithm. Silicon can be tested before constructing the implants, and it won't fail unless you physically damage it (which would require an actual head trauma to do so anyway).

Such a mechanism would prevent even a deliberately malicious code from causing anything more than slight discomfort.

Some Issues with the Tech (5, Interesting)

stripathy (1870498) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134034)

This technology is clearly very cool, but there's two major hurdles to overcome before everyone's running around with one of these.

1. Controlling the device. Currently scientists/doctors control these brain computer interfaces (BCIs) by implanting electrodes into the patient's brain and finding neurons which code for particular movements (arm up or ring finger down). As the output device gets more complicated, like the arm here, doctors need to find more and more neurons to represent each degree of freedom of the output device.

2. Quality of neural recordings degrade with time. The current shelf life of the electrode arrays used in these experiments is ~1-2 years because after implantation, the brain's immune system rejects the device and neurons which code useful information die or move elsewhere. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronic_electrode_implants

Re:Some Issues with the Tech (3, Interesting)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134192)

I am not a neurosurgeon, but it seems to me that implanting probes in the motor cortex is probably not the best solution anyway. You already presumably have peripheral motor nerves coming off the spine and across your back to where the arm used to be (ignoring people who can't use limbs due to spinal damage for the moment). And peripheral motor nerves, unlike spinal nerves, don't suddenly stop controlling your arm and start controlling your leg or start controlling a different muscle in your arm, generally speaking.

To use a computer analogy, controlling implants with probes in the brain is like staying in a hotel in NYC and controlling the lights in your house in California by installing a box that introspect the packets that flow through a core router on a major Internet backbone in Cleveland. Ten hours later, you drive to D.C., and the packets that went to your house get routed through Detroit instead, so your house isn't controllable. As you get closer to your house, you encounter fewer possible paths that actually go to your house. Thus, the closer you are to the endpoint, the greater the likelihood that the packets are going to pass through your tap. By the time the packets get to your house, you can be pretty sure that they're intended for your house, or at worst, for somebody in your general neighborhood.

So by tapping the peripheral motor nerves, you'd reduce the number of problems you have to deal with down to one: the nerves near the implant site dying. And even in that case, repairs would be less dangerous; you would shorten the nerve in the person's shoulder area instead cutting into his/her skull. Also, the mechanisms that attack implants in the brain aren't present in the rest of the body, AFAIK, so you might have a whole different set of problems or you might have fewer problems, but it seems unlikely that you'd have the same problems.

Re:Some Issues with the Tech (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134272)

On the other hand (or should I say: the other arm?), the motor nerves don't "learn" - they are just simple wires.
I reckon that this might bring other problems into the picture (like: an old brain doesn't only need to learn new tricks, but also to unlearn the old ones - the old wires don't lead to the same muscles, nor the behaviour of the new "muscles" is the same as what is used to be).

Re:Some Issues with the Tech (2, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134314)

I would think that this is where the DSP comes in.... You have a series of chemical signals coming in from specific nerves, and you turn each of these signals into a separate data stream. You ask the person, "Okay, try lifting your arm straight up." You then record what happens. Repeat for other actions to build up a rough map of what neuron does what. Then, you have the person try to use the limb, starting from various positions, and tell the person to do specific things, progressively tuning the amount of response for particular motions iteratively until the motion of the prosthetic limb feels natural. Easy? No. Quick? Also no. Possible? I don't see why not.

Re:Some Issues with the Tech (3, Interesting)

plastbox (1577037) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135374)

Why does so many here seem to think this would be needed? I'm pretty sure you could hook up the prosthetic limb to more or less any signal picked up from the implants and send the patient to physical(/mechanical) therapy. The brain is easily the worlds biggest neural net, and incredibly flexible and adaptive. The way I figure, there is no effing way the sensomotoric correlations wouldn't emerge on their own with use and exploration.

Re:Some Issues with the Tech (1)

Dr Max (1696200) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134798)

I don't think your analogy worked very well, but I’ll try to follow; you are proposing that an internet connection to your house from NYC made out of an incredibly tiny fragile wire is broken (after your light bulb in California got bitten of by a lion) and your going to try and find the break and twist the wires together (reconnecting it to your brand new light). These guys at APL are proposing to put in a whole new wire (it'll be wifi but it’s your analogy) straight from the switch in NYC (your brain) to your house in California (your arm) (no re-routing through your foot, brain probe to arm).

Re:Some Issues with the Tech (1)

ShadowXOmega (808299) | more than 4 years ago | (#33137206)

if the implants get rejected...well...i have a question: there is no way to enginner some kind of implant cover (like a skin) made of the same cells as the patient, but with some kind of layer (may be fat), so the body dont feel like it like a stranger.

Or may be, the sensor can be made of some kind of artificially made neuron made from a cultive of the patient.

Or have a network of progressively more hardware, less wetware, so, near the sensors, is pure wetware, and near the computer interface is pure hardware.

Ahh the coffee is making me thinking weird things...

central nervous system vs. Peripheral nerves (3, Informative)

DrYak (748999) | more than 4 years ago | (#33137396)

your proposition does not only make sense, but is even used in other experiments or products. Earlier prosthetic arms read signals from nerves and remaining fragments of muscles (mentionned in TFA). Also the HAL exoskeletton predicts which motion to assist by reading nerves and muscle.

BUT all this requires functionning nerves.
according to TFA, this artificial arm is intended for quadrplegic patients (with whom no useful brain impulse controls anything below the neck, except the main respiratory muscle)
for the intended patient, brain-computer-interfaces are the only way to go.

Also, a nerve requires a connexion to a muscle to function properly. You can't just put an electrode on it to read the signal. If the limb is missing, the nerve is un connected and dies of or degrades. That's why another artificial limb is mentionned to require renervation of muscles.
The golden target for non-quadraplegic patients would probably be to design which, to the body, exactly look like what the nerves grow onto, so the body will naturally make synapses to link the artificial limb.

Re:Some Issues with the Tech (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134194)

doctors need to find more and more neurons to represent each degree of freedom of the output device.

Not necessarily - google for "brain rewire" (connecting supplementary electrodes to the neighbouring neurons might do the trick)

the brain's immune system rejects the device

Now, this is a problem; before your brain learns how to use the interface, the interface is irrationally rejected - how stupid for the brain ;)

Re:Some Issues with the Tech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33134502)

Per TFA, DARPA has a separate program attempting to improve the lifespan of the electrodes in the body to 70 years. For patients with functional spinal cords there have also been great advances in tapping other muscular nerves rather than doing a direct brain implant (also described in the article). Other researchers are working on improving the range of the electrodes with the ultimate goal of being able to "read and write" from outside the skull (though I expect that for a long time the resolution will be too poor to use this for prosthetic control/feedback). Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has also been used for a long time for research purposes to temporarily depress targeted brain areas but it's currently very imprecise and (IMO) will likely stay that way. It also has the unfortunate habit of inducing seizures in some people.

The neural adaptation used by these systems is somewhat more sophisticated than you describe. In essence, they record a bunch of neurons while the patient thinks about the desired movements. They then feed this into a neural net or other pattern recognizer. Over time, there is a mutual adaptation wherein the patient's brain learns to control the device and the pattern recognizer also learns which brain signals correspond to which movements. The system works on populations of neurons (not just single neurons) and the brain area devoted directly to muscular control is surprisingly small (not to be confused with the areas dealing with calculating trajectories i.e. the cerebellum), so existing systems have a pretty good volume of input signals to work with. Although eventually we will need to expand the brain area being used, we don't seem to have hit the limit yet.

Re:Some Issues with the Tech (1)

JohnPombrio (1612147) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136336)

Remember the movies "Forbidden Planet" with the ID trying to kill everyone? Then remember the movie "Dr. Strangelove" where Peter Sellers arm starts choking himself? Well...

Re:Some Issues with the Tech (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136404)

my understanding is that the latest solutions use peripheral nerves wired to small skin muscles on the chest, and then place a sensor pad on top that can read the contractions of individual muscles.

Re:Some Issues with the Tech (1)

indeterminator (1829904) | more than 4 years ago | (#33137924)

3. The person to whom the arm is attached to will lose any ability to jump.

Awesome stuff, with strange possibilities. (3, Interesting)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134072)

I love this stuff because people who lost limbs or are paralyzed can become fully functional if it comes to pass! This sort of thing inspires great hope. Still I think about strange mad scientist applications...

If an electrical connection can control an arm, how much longer until you can control a whole body?

Since its an electrical connection, it could also be a wireless connection so you could control things at a distance.

If you had a computer, it could control the body too.

If someone goes brain dead or a coma, a computer could use that body like a robot with the right wiring and WIFI.

Or what might happen is that it doesn't use people... The setup may use an animal instead.

Who wants a monkey butler with the brain of a computer? How about a spy cat?

I don't expect those things to actually happen because people have morality, but they could be possibilities. I think its more likely that robot bodies will be built by people, but this technology makes you wonder what strange things are possible.

Re:Awesome stuff, with strange possibilities. (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134138)

If one were feeling especially unpleasant, one needn't wait for the brain to shut down before replacing the brain's control of the body with an artificial control unit...(extra credit will, naturally, be granted for allowing the brain to retain enough sensory access to witness the body that it no longer controls destroying everyone and everything it ever loved)

It's probably the closest you can get to "I have no mouth and I must scream" with relatively plausible near future technology.

Re:Awesome stuff, with strange possibilities. (4, Insightful)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134260)

I don't expect those things to actually happen because people have morality [...]

You must be new here...

Re:Awesome stuff, with strange possibilities. (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134274)

If an electrical connection can control an arm, how much longer until you can control a whole body?

I think we're likely to be able to repair spinal cord damage long before we learn how to patch around it with electronics. We're getting [physorg.com] closer [reuters.com] every [sciencedaily.com] day [physiology.org] .

Re:Awesome stuff, with strange possibilities. (2, Insightful)

kainosnous (1753770) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134532)

I don't expect those things to actually happen because people have morality,

People are not by nature moral. What most people call "morals" is really just a bunch of self serving excuses for doing bad things. The only influences, secularly speaking, that will keep this technology from being used in the most hideous ways are laziness, lack of sufficient resources, and greedy bickering between scientists, corporations, and bureaucrats.

Re:Awesome stuff, with strange possibilities. (1)

cgenman (325138) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135346)

Remind me never to throw Christmas at your house.

You could also say that people have morals drilled into them though a process of socialization. There are certain morals that are inherent in the step of brain development where people realize that other people are people too. And there are morals genetically coded to do things like reduce inbreeding and to keep similar genes from stabbing other similar genes.

Re:Awesome stuff, with strange possibilities. (1)

plastbox (1577037) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135422)

Man, this whole morality-debate (weather it's absolute or relative, learned or inborn) gets me kind of riled up. The only thing needed to explain morale is The Cardemon Law [wikipedia.org] (which is a Norwegian song from a children's play, and sounds absolutely retarded in English).

Empathy: most people have it, and instinctively know that if you kick someone in the shin it's going to hurt them and thus kicking isn't something you should do. Ability to reason: most people are supposed to have it (although observation seems to indicate otherwise), and even if you are completely void of empathy it really isn't that hard to see that getting punched in the nose hurts, other people have noses and seem otherwise similar to oneself, ergo one shouldn't punch people in the nose.

Apart from that, "morality" has no place interfering with peoples lives. Stem cell therapy? Brain implants? Genetic therapy? Could save and help hundreds of millions and will as soon as we get past religious dogma and morons trying to argue against something they don't understand.

Re:Awesome stuff, with strange possibilities. (3, Informative)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135746)

People are not by nature moral. What most people call "morals" is really just a bunch of self serving excuses for doing bad things. The only influences, secularly speaking, that will keep this technology from being used in the most hideous ways are laziness, lack of sufficient resources, and greedy bickering between scientists, corporations, and bureaucrats.

Yes, because we all know that it is only religious belief that enables ethical behaviour, and that all religious believers are truly moral people.
You are a fucking cunt on a tricycle.

Re:Awesome stuff, with strange possibilities. (1)

cgenman (325138) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135390)

Two things that make the system above work is that A: the brain is pretty self-organizing, and B: the brain has more neurons to fire than the robot arms. The brain being self-organizing means that if you jam an arm control somewhere in the motor cortex, through trial and error the brain will more or less figure out where it is and how to use it. If you tried to connect a complex neurological connection to the computer in the other direction, you'd have to know exactly what each neuron effected before hooking it up. This is because of B: the brain having ridiculous amounts of neurons. The brain can flex everything until something twitches. You don't have the resolution in current computer systems to try flicking every connected neuron individually.

The more likely immoral direction would be to put monkey's brains into the next generation of Roomba. Or make the next mustang with a self-driving system built from the brain of a mustang. Or wire up your pilots to control the complex machinery with a thought.

Re:Awesome stuff, with strange possibilities. (2, Insightful)

plastbox (1577037) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135478)

Why should input to this immense, self-organizing computer be any different than output? Read up on Sensory Substitution [wikipedia.org] (or augmentation, or perceptual augmentation, or whatever you feel like calling it).

Just as you say, the brain would figure out how the arm worked if allowed to explore and test. The same thing is true about sensory information presented to the brain through the skin, as long as there is a correlation between the signals going out and the signals coming in. What's the reasoning behind thinking that dropping the wire from the skin to the brain and just "plugging it right in there" would make a difference? Be it the correlation between telling your body to turn, feedback from the inner ear and proprioception and feedback from the feelSpace belt [uni-osnabrueck.de] , or the correlation between sending random signals to a prosthetic arm and observing what happens.. I'm pretty sure the brain would figure it out on it's own.

Re:Awesome stuff, with strange possibilities. (1)

thesandtiger (819476) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136102)

I expect them to happen because not everyone's sense of morality is the same.

I also expect them to happen because they've already been happening - there is research being done on rats wherein they are implanted with devices that can then be used to send them signals to make them move around, essentially a remote control rat.

With regards to surveillance and espionage, it absolutely makes sense to me that this would be and will be used in birds if it's possible to do so. The "moral" issues of using an animal for espionage or defense are non-existent for organizations that routinely use the term "collateral damage" to describe civilian casualties or look at "mere" millions of civilian deaths as an "acceptable" outcome of a nuclear or biological strike.

Re:Awesome stuff, with strange possibilities. (1)

necro81 (917438) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136526)

If an electrical connection can control an arm, how much longer until you can control a whole body?

Perhaps I don't give proper credit for exponential growth, but my response is "a freakin' long time." It's a really hard problem to even a handful of control inputs from a neural interface - enough to control an arm. To control a whole body, even in a simplified fashion, would require tens, if not hundreds. For The Matrix kind of integration, probably a few million. It will take a few decades, maybe longer.

To put it in another light: a surgeon acquaintence who has done research in prosthetics believes we are closer to limb regeneration than we are to full cyborg limb replacements.

Why the Pentagon? (1)

PerformanceDude (1798324) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134114)

You have got to wonder why the Pentagon is involved. I "get" the obvious benefit to soldiers maimed in battle, but I'm cynical enough to think there must be a deeper desire to create "super-soldiers". Soldiers with artifical limbs that are more powerful and protective than human tissue obviously is. Soldiers who can fire a weapon just by thinking about it. Someone at the Pentagon may have watched "Robo-cop" one too many times. Lets hope they keep this medical - the alternative is just a little too frightening in my opinion.

Re:Why the Pentagon? (1)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134602)

Well, the navy has done experiments with trying to use electrodes on the tongue as an input device for divers to create a more intuitive feel for where mines and other objects are. I'd suspect the pentagon would want to eventually create some teleautomatic UAVs or submersibles that feel more natural to control.

Re:Why the Pentagon? (2, Insightful)

tsotha (720379) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134800)

You're being overly cynical. Nearly all advances in reconstructive surgery and prosthetics have been driven by militaries over the years. These programs are explicitly for reconstruction and rehabilitation.

The super-soldier thing just isn't practical. For one thing, you could buy a couple tanks for the price you'd pay to wire someone up like that. For another, what would you do with your super-soldiers when they didn't reenlist or became unfit for duty? Then there are basic power/size/weight considerations. Far more practical would be an exoskeleton like HULC.

All hail our future Cyborg overlords (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33134128)

In Soviet Russia, arm controls you.

Re:All hail our future Cyborg overlords (1)

Psaakyrn (838406) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134380)

Like Liquid Snake?

The "new stranger" (1)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134154)

Takes self lovin to a whole new level.

Ghost in the Shell Tech (3, Insightful)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134282)

This is just the first step, the next step will be interfacing a person's brain into a device for processing data, ie. A cyber brain. The first once will be about the size of a iPhone, but will be external and wirelessly connected to the brain implants, eventually the size will shrink where it will make sense to mount the thing inside of the head.

Re:Ghost in the Shell Tech (2, Insightful)

Psaakyrn (838406) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134392)

With plugs at the back of the neck so we can tap into our dreams...

Re:Ghost in the Shell Tech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33135142)

This is just the first step, the next step will be...

They haven't quite got to controlling legs yet so they haven't taken any steps at all!

Re:Ghost in the Shell Tech (1)

cgenman (325138) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135426)

Not to be too pedantic, but isn't that what the internet is? You control something, you produce input, you get output back in. The human-to-computer interface is largely hands and keys, and the computer-to-human interface is a screen.

You can attach to neurons in the brain to get those keystrokes, though I suspect that won't be that much faster than actually typing. And you can put data back in with this kind of straight neuron stimulation, or the visual kind.

But in the grand scheme of things, what you've described could also describe a modern cellphone. You get the advantages of upgradability and flexibility, without the drawbacks of foreign-body rejection and that pesky cross-skin barrier. Oh, and the ridiculously high costs of brain surgery.

I'm not convinced connecting directly to the brain would really be that much faster. Really, how long does it take you to think of a sentence, one letter at a time? What about getting input back in? Is reading really all that slow? If reading is too slow for us, why haven't we moved on to those lightning-fast screen readers?

Re:Ghost in the Shell Tech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33135854)

Bandwidth and data types. It's just like a computer, you could send text to a computer in the form of an image, and he could OCR it. But sending text is easier, and less error-prone.

Re:Ghost in the Shell Tech (1)

asnelt (1837090) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135600)

I don't think such a technology would be very popular in the foreseeable future. I mean would you want an implant in your brain that will be outdated after a couple of years? Not to speak of risks that every surgical operation has. Today 5 of 100000 die simply of the general anaesthesia of a surgery. I would imagine that for brain surgeries the mortality rate is even higher.

For treatment of patients with severe disorders such technologies make a lot of sense. But just mental enhancement? I wouldn't want it. But then again I am not using ritalin...

No need for implants (2, Interesting)

Clueless Nick (883532) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134490)

Everybody must have seen this video on TED:

http://www.ted.com/talks/tan_le_a_headset_that_reads_your_brainwaves.html [ted.com]

If you can read the electrical impulses non-intrusively and with a lightweight headgear, and then use an adaptive algorithm to learn an individual's 'fingerprint' brainwave patterns, you can easily use the technology to control everything from powered wheelchairs to those cool animatronic prosthetics developed by the Japanese. Of course, you will also need some corrective algorithms so that empathically generated signals do not start to control the hardware ;)

Sense of touch (2, Interesting)

Clueless Nick (883532) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134526)

I was wondering about that ever since watching the robotic prosthetics on NHK and especially the said TED video. Would it be possible to tap into nerves on a patch of skin (e.g. where the missing appendage should have been) and 'train' the brain to read impulses there, rather than directly meddle with it surgically?

Sci-fi time.

Re:Sense of touch (1)

tpjunkie (911544) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136048)

Possibly, but it seems to me the neurosurgery required to do that might be more difficult than implanting electrodes in the brain. In the arm, there are three main branches of the brachial plexus that travel the length of the arm, the median, ulnar, and radial nerves, and they all contain both motor and sensory fibers. Making all the connections necessary for natural movement and sense would be an incredibly long and tedious surgery for the motor part alone. I'm not even sure how you would manage do to the sensory part under local anesthesia. In the brain on the other hand, the motor and sensory cortex are basically mirror images of each other, somatotopically arranged across the precentral and postcentral gryrii, respectively. With the patient awake, the surgeon can stimulate the proper region of each, and place the electrodes quite precisely on the necessary areas. That's my two cents as a med student.

Cigarette lighter inside the thumb (2, Funny)

Dr Max (1696200) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134638)

I’m one step closer to getting a super strong left arm; with a Cigarette lighter inside the thumb; fold away bottle opener; phone on the palm of my hand; and an electric screwdriver inside the ring finger.

$6 Million dollars? (1)

7bit (1031746) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134834)

Does the arm cost 6 Million dollars, or do we get a full set for that amount?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Six_Million_Dollar_Man [wikipedia.org]

Re:$6 Million dollars? (1)

RDW (41497) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135436)

'Does the arm cost 6 Million dollars, or do we get a full set for that amount?'

Well, $34.5M / 5 subjects = $6.9M, but the full set will cost you an arm and a leg.

Accident? (1)

uncholowapo (1666661) | more than 4 years ago | (#33134954)

So what if for some reason, I just decide to start to think about some pornographic material in public? Will that trigger the reaction that usually comes with this kind of thought?

Re:Accident? (1)

plastbox (1577037) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135440)

You might be trying to be funny, but imagine for a moment being paralyzed down south. Think prosthetic penises won't be a hugely marketable item once they figure out how to make the feedback good enough that sensomotoric relations can take care of the rest and they figure out how to measure sexual excitation to initiate *cough* inflation..?

It's a brave new world (of Japanese one-on-one gang bang and gallons-of-synthetic-jizz-bukkake porn)!

Naming (1)

MistrX (1566617) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135322)

I love the work in this field but Modular Prosthetic Limb or 'MPL' doesn't really fit the usage. Functional Arm Prosthetic or 'FAP' might be better.

Re:Naming (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135776)

Functional Arm Prosthetic or 'FAP' might be better.

I doubt that the market for people who have literally wanked their arms off will be that great. Then again, this is slashdot...

"We were able to save the left arm." (1)

agw (6387) | more than 4 years ago | (#33135832)

"What? I thought we agreed on total body prosthesis, now lose the arm okay!"

Remember (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136824)

Practice on a hot dog first.

Ladies and Gentelmen, (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | more than 4 years ago | (#33137166)

Welcome to the future.

I know it's been a long road for some, and far too delayed for others, but the future is here. Alas, I regret to inform you that a complete direct neural interface is still a ways off, and neural replication far beyond. The reaper will still take his due for us all.
But a toast to all those who helped haul humanity into the future, kicking and screaming all the way. I only wish I could have helped more.

All hail our armed leaders! (0, Redundant)

kahizonaki (1226692) | more than 4 years ago | (#33137294)

I, for one, welcome our new limbed overlords -- better than the last bunch by an arm (and possibly a leg)!

inputdev (1)

Aphoxema (1088507) | more than 4 years ago | (#33137700)

Thanks to the plasticity of the brain and modern technology (not to mention where we're apparently going), it is entirely possible to shove organic-friendly electrodes into many parts of the brain and slowly learn how to "output" to them and understand the significance of "input".

This (output) was successfully tested on a man who was completely paralyzed and given the power to use a cursor on a computer and "push" a button. It took him a while to accomplish and the "how" is a little sketchy, but it certainly can be done on an unhampered individual.

It won't be too long before people will be able to opt into networking their brain wirelessly to their peers and become meta-minds. I'm surprised no one's already trying it.

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