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Robotic Arm Controlled By Monkey Thoughts

Zonk posted more than 9 years ago | from the next-step-is-cyber-monkeys dept.

Biotech 327

mallumax writes "The BBC reports that Pittsburgh University scientists have succeeded in creating a robotic arm, controlled by probes inserted into the brain of monkeys. The probes interpret signals from individual nerve cells in the motor cortex. Monkeys were able to grasp and hold food with the robotic arm. Since the number of nerve signals for even small movements is huge the scientists used an averaging algorithm to obtain the movement signals."

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That's not my hand on your ass (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11718189)

That's my monkey controlled robot arm's hand on your ass.

Re:That's not my hand on your ass (1)

Koiu Lpoi (632570) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718446)

So you taught the monkey to grab ass. With a robotic arm. May I ask what the point is, besides all the work you had to go through to get the monkey to grab ass?

That's not my ass! (3, Funny)

soft_guy (534437) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718456)

That's my fembot's gorilla controlled ass!

This is just wrong! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11718196)

n/t

Tool use? (4, Interesting)

wind river (841704) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718198)

Wouldn't this also be a sign that monkeys are capable of fairly sophisticated tool use?

Re:Tool use? (5, Interesting)

Richie1984 (841487) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718235)

That's not the impression I got. It seems more like the monkey was moving the tool as if it were it's own limb, i.e. the moneky tried to move its hand and the tool moved instead. If this is the case, all it shows is that monkeys can control their own limbs.

No, the tool is the arm. (2, Informative)

Eunuch (844280) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718242)

Remember they are using the tool like they would use their own arm. Monkeys already can grasp--having opposable thumbs.

Re:No, the tool is the arm. (-1)

MojoRilla (591502) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718435)

Only humans have opposable thumbs. They can grasp with their fingers, thought.

Re:Tool use? (1)

acidrain69 (632468) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718245)

Sure, if the monkey built the arm himself. Otherwise it isn't much more than using a stick to whack another monkey around.

That is some high-tech-poo-flinging right there.

Re:Tool use? (5, Insightful)

glowimperial (705397) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718252)

I would think that there is plenty of non-robotic evidence that monkeys use and make simple tools, are skilled and knowledgable in their use and pass tool knowledge from individual to individual already in the wild. Monkeys have been trained to operate tools and devices before this, both in and out of laboratory settings. I wouldn't consider this a breakthrough or in any way revealing about monkeys, I would consider it more of a robotic/hapic/man-machine interface breakthrough.

Re:Tool use? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11718260)

Wouldn't this also be a sign that monkeys are capable of fairly sophisticated tool use?

No, but Robots are. [popealien.com]

Re:Tool use? (1)

dabigpaybackski (772131) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718312)

Wouldn't this also be a sign that monkeys are capable of fairly sophisticated tool use?

Indeed it would, and the implications are frightening. Imagine steroid-enhanced cyborg chimpanzee super-soldiers high on crystal meth.

Try dangling a bunch of bananas in front of that cage.

Re:Tool use? (1)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718465)

Yeah! It's a sign that monkeys can pick up food with their arms and transfer it to their mouths! A stunning discovery!!!!

Monkey thoughts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11718200)

Let the jokes fly before somebody spanks that monkey.

We are disabled already. (2, Interesting)

Eunuch (844280) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718201)

"The inventors believe it could help people who have lost limb function through disease or trauma." Why are all these types of enhancements framed in terms of the disabled? We are disabled. Why must we hunger, breath air, thirst, sleep? I wonder if these researchers are just giving the public this. Can they see the obvious leap to transhumanism?

We're doomed (4, Insightful)

cyberwiz01 (745827) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718263)

Besides the obvious addition of extra limbs a la Doc Oc from Spiderman, imagine what it would be like if everyday people had loads of mechanical limbs. As if drivers on cell phones werent bad enough. Now people can drive, talk on the phone, type something on their laptop, eat, and read the newspaper at the same time.

Re:We're doomed (2, Interesting)

3770 (560838) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718406)

I'm guessing that the brain only can handle two arms. You could have an extra limb, but it would perfectly mimic either the left or the right arm.

Or your left or right leg, or maybe the arm could mimic one of your fingers. But I don't think that you can have a robotic limb which which is completely independend from all your existing limbs.

Maybe if you got the robotic limb when you were a baby.

Re:We're doomed (1)

Stanistani (808333) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718470)

>Now people can drive, talk on the phone, type something on their laptop, eat, and read the newspaper at the same time.

Or, considering the "averaging" in the algorithm, imagine them typing on the newspaper, turning their laptop to the right, talking to the steering wheel, shoving the cellphone in their mouth, and careening off the road.

Re:We are disabled already. (1)

m3j00 (606453) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718296)

Somebody needs to pass the bong...

And for the next version... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11718202)

Real Monkey Arm Controlled By Monkey Thoughts

Re:And for the next version... (5, Funny)

Stanistani (808333) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718282)

From the article:
"Our biggest problem is durability of the probes. Typically they last for about six months."

I'd say a bigger problem is that to make this work, you have to stick friggin' needles into the brain!

How about some sort of non-invasive sensor cap as the "next step."

Re:And for the next version... (1)

Richie1984 (841487) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718321)

I'd be more concerned about the algorithm they use. Due to the large amount of messages, most are scrapped and only the seemingly 'important' ones are saved. I'd want to make sure that the algorithm is actually effective before trying out this technology, or I'd like an explaination as to how they sort unimportant signals from important ones. Otherwise, the movements of the tool may not relate to what the user actually intended.

Re:And for the next version... (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718430)

yeah it just happens to be completely coincendental that the monkey managed to pick up the food with teh arm and eat it. The odds of that happening by coincedent are astronomical!

Plus, the brain adapts itself so that it can use the arm, there is no reason to completely adapt the interface to the brain.

Re:And for the next version... (1)

Richie1984 (841487) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718476)

That's a fair point, but my main concern is that the algorithm may not be perfect, which is expected as the technology is only in development. I just don't like the idea of 'unimportant' messages being filtered. What is their definition of unimportant?

Re:And for the next version... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11718377)

It's been tried. The signal/noise ratio for non-invasive probes is grotesquely low.

Electrodes in the brain are not that unusual. Take a close look at cochlear implants and the few cases where the electrodes have not merely been put on the auditory nerve but actually on the auditory cortex to see what you can get from stimulating nerves that way, and pretty safely.

Re:And for the next version... (1)

Stanistani (808333) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718423)

Maybe with a "lossy" algorithm like this that wouldn't be as big a factor... then again, maybe the answer is making the elctrode/brain/skull part more durable.

Great News! (1)

s7uar7 (746699) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718206)

For one armed monkeys.

Nipple Fettish (5, Funny)

BlurredWeasel (723480) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718212)

As long as the monkey doesn't have a nipple fetish [boingboing.net] I think we'll be fine.

Re:Nipple Fetish (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11718266)

Where can I learn the sign language for "show me your nipples"? I find these ideas intriguing, and wish to subscribe to the newsletter.

One step closer (-1, Offtopic)

Fromeo (256304) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718218)

One step closer to "Monkey Wash, Donkey Rinse" ... whatever that means ...

Sealab quote (5, Funny)

Chairboy (88841) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718219)

Is there such thing as an obligatory Sealab 2021 quote yet?

News Anchor: Scientists have successfully transplanted little Jango's brain into a robot monkey body. on a sad note, however, Jambo died late last night after drinking his own urine.

Sparks: Hey, Skip. What do you think about all this robot stuff?

Murphy: Why? Are we under attack?!

Sparks: No..but that robot monkey on the news..

Murphy: You're kidding! That guy's a robot monkey?

Deep Thoughts...This is the first step (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11718220)

I think the monkeys at the zoo should have to wear sunglasses so they can't hypnotize you.

-Jack Handy

I would rather use my own brain... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11718221)

Hook that up with my brain; my hands need a break. Robotic arm should be good...

Robotic Monkey Overlords... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11718224)

I for welcome our new robotic, monkey controlled overlords, and I for remind them that as a trusted /. user, I may be useful in assembling other /. users to toil in their banna plantations

Big Mistake (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11718226)

Personally, I think it was a mistake to attach the arm to the researcher.

Goodbye Carpal Tunnel Monkeys! (0, Offtopic)

KhaZ (160984) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718227)

Think of all the porn^H^H^H^Hcode they can watch^H^H^H^H^Hdo with that device...

University of Pittsburgh NOT Pittsburgh University (4, Informative)

rueba (19806) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718228)

See here:
http://www.cnbc.cmu.edu/faculty/schwartz.sh tml

It seems he does joint work with CMU but his official position is at UPitt(as we sometimes call it).

Re:University of Pittsburgh NOT Pittsburgh Univers (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11718360)

This work is *OLD*. Take a look at the Boston Arm for examples of why it doesn't work well. The electrodes cannot yet be permanently linked to small enough numbers of neurons to prevent huge amounts of signal noise, and you get a minimum of half a second of phase delay in the control systems to average out the noise. And the smaller you make the electrodes, the higher the impedance of the electrode, which also reduces your available signal level and potentially lowers your signal/noise.

Mechanical arms reading motion of other moscles still works a lot faster than any of the neural implants. Look at David Edell's work at MIT for examples of potentially useful electrode technologies, involving electroplated slots in semiconductor grade silicon.

That's great... (1)

Lisandro (799651) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718230)

Don't give monkey knives or guns. Just give them robotic arms a-la-Robocop!

Acceptable question now... (3, Insightful)

andy314159pi (787550) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718231)

The following is an acceptable question to ask:
"Should we really be attaching electronics to monkey neurons?"

Re:Acceptable question now... (4, Insightful)

Richie1984 (841487) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718281)

That raises the question "is animal reseach acceptable if it benefits a larger number of humans?", which is a debate beyond the scope of this article, in my opinion. There's no indication that any animals were harmed in the process, and there's no mention whether there is any lasting damage, or if the proceedure is reversable. But, if I were going to use the technology, I personally would like the answers to those questions beforehand.

Re:Acceptable question now... (1)

Eq 7-2521 (159354) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718429)

No no no! It begs the question. Get with the modern vernacular.

Re:Acceptable question now... (1)

gphinch (722686) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718432)

monkeys are a natural resource put on this planet for humans to expend, just like oil and iron. now where can we go to war to get more monkeys...

Re:Acceptable question now... (1)

rokzy (687636) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718449)

>There's no indication that any animals were harmed in the process

'cept for "inserting probes into brains" ?

I'd prefer this kind of thing was done on humans and with non-invasive probes, but this is probably better (it had better be to jusify the use of animals like this).

Monkey operated. (1)

lateralus_1024 (583730) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718232)

It's not a robotic arm, it's Congress, the Supreme Court and the Senate.

Re:Monkey operated. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11718391)

indeed.

Re:Monkey operated. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11718468)

and /.'s blatant liberalism gets dumber and dumber by the day. But this is coming from a group of people who can get lots of minorites in the same room WITHOUT inviting the entire hotel staff according to your leader Howard Dean.

Implications (1)

Aggrazel (13616) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718233)

This is all well and good until some scientist accidentally fuzes 4 arms to himself and goes mad, rampaging through the city and hatching evil plots...

oh the horror.

Re:Implications (1)

lordsilence (682367) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718291)

So that's where all the missing urane went to, the building of the reactor to control those arms..

So What????? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11718237)

our little monkey thoughts have done this kind of stuff for the last 25000 years.

Let the robotic poo-flinging begin (2, Funny)

The UberDork (689979) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718238)

Robot Monkey Arms flings robot poo!!

Thanks to this robotic arm... (3, Funny)

DaFallus (805248) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718250)

"In this world gone mad, we won't spank the monkey, the monkey will spank us."

Monkeybusiness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11718253)

Am I the only one who finds such testing on monkeys, an animal species with a high degree of conciousness, unethical?

Use rats. Yes, there are tests that can indicate level of conciousness (such as mirror-test), and yes, the degree of ethics relates to conciousness, as that is what differentiates chickens from humans, and chickens from trees and rocks.

Re:Monkeybusiness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11718302)

Yes, such devices should only be tested on Anonymous Cowards. Now, please excuse me, I need to go and fling some poo.

Re:Monkeybusiness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11718431)

Fling some poo? You just did.
Something tells me that's all you know how to do.

Remember the last time (2, Funny)

Prince Vegeta SSJ4 (718736) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718255)

people experimented with monkey thoughts [greencine.com]

Pittsburgh University? (1)

chia_monkey (593501) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718257)

I'm still trying to figure out if they're talking about the University of Pittsburgh, which has a rather well-known medical program, or Carnegie Mellon University (which would be a Pittsburgh University) which is world famous for its robotics program. Anyone? Bueller?

Re:Pittsburgh University? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11718362)

University of Pittsburgh. Though based on this picture [pitt.edu] I wouldn't be surprised if there was some collaboration with CMU.

Also interesting to note how the top of the monkey's head is occluded.

Re:Pittsburgh University? (1)

chia_monkey (593501) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718409)

Ah...thank you. Was a bit too busy at work to do my usual detective work. I too wouldn't be surprised if there was some invovlement with CMU Robotics. Thanks again.

Amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11718264)

Amazing how willing to please they become after you chop their arm off.

In other news... (1)

pacmanfan (824027) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718265)

It has been determined that with a motor-cortex-controlled electric typewriter, it will only take approximately 10,000 years for a million monkeys to compose the works of Shakespeare.

I.... (1)

Psykus (827143) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718273)

I, for one, welcome our new robotic monkey overlords.

Didn't this happen before... (1)

Ruarris (838330) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718275)

This just happened in humans at MIT http://www.cnn.com/TECH/science/9807/23/t_t/digita l.gadgets/ [cnn.com]

Re:Didn't this happen before... (1)

Ruarris (838330) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718346)

Sorry, wrong article :) But i can't find the one I was looking for. I believe it was MIT who designed an arm that a man who was paralyzed could control with his mind, and so far could turn on a TV

Interference from tissue growth (1)

Mark of THE CITY (97325) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718277)

Could tissue growth be suppressed locally, maybe by having a supply of some anti-growth factor dispensed from the (possibly porous) probes? It would still have to be replenished; but undesirable side effects (suppressing tissue growth elsewhere) could be eliminated or mitigated and the probes could last much longer.

I imagine it can hurl (4, Funny)

saddino (183491) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718290)

shit at blindingly fast speeds. Ex-cellent.

Monkey Bots? (1)

Mc_Anthony (181237) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718292)

I for one welcome our new cyber-Monkey overlords.

Mojo (1)

PretzelWagon (770175) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718305)

Pray for Mojo.

Jesus Christ (1)

kaustik (574490) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718318)

In early tests, monkeys had tiny probes inserted into their brains and had their limbs restrained

I'm no blood-throwing, goat loving PETA member, but this sounds horrible. You'd think there would be better ways of testing things like this... like on willing humans who were properly sedated. Hell, I'd do it if they let me keep the arm...

Enough to turn me Republican. (1)

Eunuch (844280) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718349)

The end result of all this will be a transhuman capable of withstanding all those bombs being exploded in Iraq. There is no sacrific too high. PETA and stem cell opponents are both roadblocks, although they are political opponents.

Evil monkey-robots?!! (1)

caluml (551744) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718320)

Holy shit! We're giving those evil little fuckers cyborg capabilities to go with their brains, opposable thumbs, and tails?!!
NASA wants us all dead! NASA sent up monkeys - are they all accounted for? NASA sent up robots - where are they now? We can defeat the monkeys. We can defeat the robots. But NOT AT THE SAME TIME!

Graft (2, Funny)

looneyboy784 (787605) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718322)

So when this tech matures will they be able to attatch a 3rd arm to my back so i can scratch my ass without distracting me from other activities. cool, but where would i buy shirts?

Re:Graft (1)

bcmm (768152) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718373)

Oh no you won't.
When you have three arms you will keep one (the artificial, carpal tunnel proof one) on the mouse and the others on the keyboard. You'll need a fourth. And when four hands becomes normal, they'll invent three-handed keyboards.

Now we can make new arms for monkeys... (4, Funny)

bcmm (768152) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718323)

we can teach them to type!
This will do wonders for the quality of discussion on Slashdot. CmdrTaco, if your reading this, please give extra mod points to non-human /.ers.

But i was hoping for RC (1)

Colin E. McDonald (837162) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718324)

Isn't that kind of like thinking you were getting a real RC car for Christmas and then when you
tore away the wrapping it ended up being one with a cord attached between the control and the car?

I've been ripped off!!!

Unless of course...those probes were using BlueTooth.

Well.. (1)

Nifrith (860526) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718332)

I, for one, welcome our new cyborg monkey masters.

Re:Well.. (1)

bcmm (768152) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718401)

I, for one, welcome our new cyborg monkey masters.
Overlords.
Not master, overlords.

"I, for one, welcome our new cyborg monkey overlords!"

Re:Well.. (1)

Nifrith (860526) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718420)

"I, for one, welcome our new cyborg monkey overlords!" They might be _your_ overlords, but they're _my_ masters.

In Soviet Russia, (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11718333)

Robotic monkey arm controls YOU!

at Pittsburgh University... (1)

ultramk (470198) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718334)

At Pittsburgh University, the monkey spanks you!

-m

Just to have it be said (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11718338)

I, for one welcome our new robot-monkey overlords.

It had to be said

DUPE (1)

DrLZRDMN (728996) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718339)

This item is very old, I remember it from last summer or spring. It is however, a very awesome achievement.

Old adage proven true (4, Funny)

mdxi (3387) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718340)

The article says the team's biggest problem is that after about 6 months tissue grown begins to interfere with transmission of signals to the probe.

This will no doubt limit the adoption of monkey cyborgs in RTOS and embedded spaces, and proves the old adage, "Always mount a scratch monkey".

Indiana Jones (0, Offtopic)

thesalodonkey (855820) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718342)

This kind of reminds me of the dinner scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Remember? Indy and all his compatriots were being wined and dined by the prince of a state in india (yeah the little guy who was brain washed with the poison blood from those who opposed of kali ma). And the meal looked really appealing at first and then the camera focused on what people were eating and you saw the sultan cracking open beetles and sucking down live born python babies and other really nasty stuff. and then there were real live monkey brain open to the world ready to be probed by curious scientists. but alas...these monkey brains were'nt controlling any bionic arms. they weren't even controlling monek bodies. they just went to waste.

And... (5, Funny)

ZeroConcept (196261) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718352)

When given pen and paper, it wrote down:

"Developers, developers, developers!!!!"

to quote Lewis Black (1)

space_jake (687452) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718364)

We can defeat the monkeys
We can defeat the machines
But we cannot defeat the monkeys with machines!

Great... (0, Redundant)

kaustik (574490) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718370)

... Now, the monkey can spank you

Reverse would be better (2, Funny)

Kohath (38547) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718382)

I don't know about you, but I'd rather have a monkey arm controlled by robot thoughts.

Typewriters (0)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718387)

Can the arm be used to type on a typewriter? Better yet, can this technology be used to directly control a typewriter?

I want monkeys to be able to type faster, so that I can get my copy of the works of Shakespeare without waiting 10,000 years.

-b.

Re:Typewriters (1)

bcmm (768152) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718460)

They should be put to use writing software.
Get some of them to type random code, and others to alpha test. When you get some code which compiles fairly cleanly and which can open and edit a few common formats (MS word, PDF, Oo.o sxw, etc.), sell it and start them on something else, like a photoshop clone. Yes, there will be issues with bloat, what with all the random peices of code which don't do anything, but it probably won't be as bad as the bloat in MS Word...

OLD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11718395)

I read about this in Scientific American, ALMOST 2 YEARS AGO!

I like Slashdot but sometimes I wonder how old the news is.

Oh dear... (0, Troll)

Skiron (735617) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718396)

Does this mean Bush will be able to run for a 3rd term?

a.l.f (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11718398)

i hope the animal liberation front pays a visit to these M.Fckers pretty soon.

Human Testing (2, Informative)

ghobbsus (833550) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718412)

According to a Popular Science article on the subject, several humans have already undergone similar treatments, allowing them to control a computer mouse by thought. In addition, scientists were able to use a weak FM transmitter to circumvent uncomfortable wiring.

revenge (1)

lichking20 (732051) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718416)

Wow, now the monkeys can kill the scientits.

Monkey (0)

northcat (827059) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718444)

Robotic Arm Controlled By Monkey Thoughts

Monkey wanks violently.

Multiple arms? (1)

sdaf (860640) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718457)

If someone were to mount additional arms to that monkey, how would it work? Would they simply mimic the movements somewhat identical to the two "original" arms? Anyone got some info?

Modding (1)

northcat (827059) | more than 9 years ago | (#11718471)

OMG look at the moderation on this article. As of now, only three posts are visible under default settings. WTF?!!
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