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Scientists Develop Cyborg Interface Algorithm 110

StCredZero writes "A ZDNet article discusses advances in the translation of brain activity to electronic control being made at MIT. Their approach allows a paralyzed individual to manipulate a prosthetic - but that's not the important advance. 'Other scientists have already done that, and built prototypes for neural brain-to-machine devices that can work for animals or humans. But each team has taken a different approach to the problem, such as developing algorithms for measuring activity in a specific brain region, or measuring them through EEGs vs. optical imaging. MIT said that it has developed a unified algorithm that can work within the parameters of these different approaches. Lakshminarayan "Ram" Srinivasan, lead author of a paper on the subject, said MIT's new graphical models are applicable no matter what measurement technique is used. "We don't need to reinvent a new paradigm for each modality or brain region," he said in a statement.'"
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Scientists Develop Cyborg Interface Algorithm

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  • by gbulmash ( 688770 ) *
    ...welcome our future cyborg overlords.
  • Nickname (Score:2, Funny)

    Lakshminarayan "Ram" Srinivasan, lead author of a paper on the subject,...

    I wish I had that kind of creativity. I tried going by the nickname of "Big Dick", but folks just laughed.

  • Wake me when this is applied to something useful. I'll be first in line to reduce myself to a bloody torso if I can replace all my limbs with robotic replacements. Then I will be your cybernetically enhanced overlord.
    • Re:*yawn* (Score:4, Insightful)

      by CheeseburgerBrown ( 553703 ) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @12:56PM (#20855023) Homepage Journal
      Wake me when this is applied to something useful.

      Right -- because giving paralyzed people the ability to locomote and manipulate objects isn't remotely useful, is it? After all, who will buy supper for the accessibility ramp-makers once their industry dries up?

      I'm sending my quadruplegic friend over to your house right now to beat you up.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by GenP ( 686381 )
        I'll bite your knees off!
      • Re:*yawn* (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Joe Tie. ( 567096 ) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @01:11PM (#20855255)
        It's not really being applied to that yet though. At the moment it's still just the promise of something on the horizon. I suspect the parent was just tired of too much hype with too little real world application.
        • by crgrace ( 220738 )
          Agreed. Academic researchers do hype their stuff prematurely, but it is the nature of the game. Traditional, forward-looking funding has dried up, and NIH and NSF now require "results". That is complete bullshit of course, so these "results" are now of course lame press releases.

          For example, it used to be that you could get money to torture small animals just for the hell of it... now you have to write your grant proposal in terms of "helping society".

          Old NSF Proposal "Torturing Zebra finches by putting
          • Don't forget tossing in the word terrorism or war. OK, not quite as possible now, but I remember for a while you couldn't develop a new type of toothpick without detailing how sparkly white teeth would help soldiers.
            • by crgrace ( 220738 )
              Joe,

              Thanks for that. Also, be sure not to call them soldiers. If you want anything from DARPA, you must be sure to call them "warfighters". Excuse me while I throw up and thank my lucky stars I'm out of academia.

              Maybe we could submit a DARPA/NSF proposal to stick neural probes in Zebra finches to increase the effectiveness of the America Warfighter.

              1. Torture Small Animals (preferably in a high-tech way such as with high-impedance neural probes)
              2. Collect data
              3. ???
              4. Enhance the effectiveness of the Ame
          • by FleaPlus ( 6935 )
            Agreed. Academic researchers do hype their stuff prematurely, but it is the nature of the game.

            Um, do you have any evidence of the researcher in question over-hyping his research? As far as I can tell, all the hyping was done by the person writing the ZDnet article.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by crgrace ( 220738 )
              FleaPlus,

              The fact that the researcher is talking to a journalist prior to the research publication is strong evidence he is over-hyping his research. The way a journalist should learn about research is by reading a peer-reviewed article. Not a press release. Note that the article states the research WILL be published in the Journal of Neurophysiology. The only reason the researcher is talking to a journalist now is HYPE. Pure and simple.

              Carl
              • by FleaPlus ( 6935 )
                The fact that the researcher is talking to a journalist prior to the research publication is strong evidence he is over-hyping his research.

                Below is the researcher's statement in the article about what he's done. Does it seem like he's over-hyping to you? All he's doing is discussing an algorithm he's developed. Also, I'm not sure if it's only available to institutional subscribers, but the article is available in advance of publication here [physiology.org].

                MIT said that it has developed a unified algorithm that can work within the parameters of these different approaches. Lakshminarayan "Ram" Srinivasan, lead author of a paper on the subject, said MIT's new graphical models are applicable no matter what measurement technique is used.

                "We don't need to reinvent a new paradigm for each modality or brain region," he said in a statement.

                Still, he said, the algorithm isn't perfect, nor the final solution to solving what is a difficult problem. "Translating an algorithm into a fully functioning clinical device will require a great deal of work, but also represents an intriguing road of scientific and engineering development for the years to come," according to MIT.

        • I wouldn't say that. Whilst man-machine interfaces aren't common treatments yet, the technology they're based on is. Deep Brain Stimulation involves sending tiny electrical pulses deep into the brain using a pacemaker-like device, and has allowed well over 10,000 Parkinson's patients regain a huge amount of mobility.
  • Obligatory... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Starteck81 ( 917280 ) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @12:53PM (#20854951)
    Murphy, is that you in there?
  • Humor? (Score:3, Funny)

    by packetmon ( 977047 ) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @12:53PM (#20854953) Homepage
    Still, he said, the algorithm isn't perfect, nor the final solution to solving what is a difficult problem.

    Lawyer: Did you mean to shoot your wife||husband?
    Defendant: I was so mad I may have thought about it but in no way did I consciously shoot him. My arm has a mind of his own
    DA: Objection your honor, defendant is saying what amounts to their "neural prosthetic aid that can link an individual's brain activity to the person's intentions; and then translate that intention into movement." that is just not possible.
    Laywer: Your honor, we have Slashdot, Groklaw and MIT printouts which show the validity of the defendant's claim
    Judge: Sustained

    • Re:Humor? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by necro2607 ( 771790 ) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @01:11PM (#20855251)
      Actually, it's pretty funny you bring that up, as there's a Ghost In The Shell episode [wikipedia.org] in which this very sort of situation occurs.

      A man with cybernetic limbs shoots and kills a woman. During the court trials, his defense lawyer (highly experienced with defending people with cybernetic prosthetics) says that the defendant wasn't used to his newly upgraded/installed cybernetic body parts (and the new control software for them) and thus fired the gun unintentionally.

      When I saw this episode, it was a bit of a shock to consider those kinds of situations where the natural self-control we take for granted could potentially no longer be in place, if we were to start to rely on technology to take the place of our physical bodies...
      • Why do we make the assumption that humans are inherently more reliable in controlling their own body than some alternative interface? I suppose the problem is that we have nothing with which to compare. We can't look at how many people simply go crazy and kill people and compare that percent to how many cyborgs do the same. Damn you ethics. I want my chainsaw arms now.
        • it's not an "assumption" that it's "inherently" more reliable. It's a practical reality that there is no interface as reliable as the one we are born with, in large degree because every interface we have so far built or conceived of uses the existing one in some way and tries to interpret the results and thus are -at least- as unreliable as our own body interface.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Afecks ( 899057 )
            That conclusion goes against millions of years of evolution and modern computers. There is nothing uncommon about inferior mechanisms creating superior mechanisms. How do you think we got here today?

            Stop trying to get in the way of my X-RAY VISION and the STRENGTH OF 5 GORILLAS!!!
            • I don't think you got what I was saying. Our current 'cybernetic' interfaces -- both practical and experimental -- use the signals created in our existing motor-control network to operate the machine. Either by being directly wired in, or by using some other stimulus -- like the artificial arms that detect muscle twitches in the patient's stump to activate the motors in the arm. It's a layered interface, one level of abstraction on top of another.

              This has a practical engineering implication regarding rel
            • by Nullav ( 1053766 )
              Shiny metal ass or not, it's all going to be driven by the same old brains as before. Also, the idea of 'accidentally intentionally' doing something does make sense when you realize that one of the things keeping us from doing whatever we feel like (besides fear of retaliation) is the effort required to do so. In short, the weight of your body holds you back to some extent.
              If you have an arm that can move with no conscious effort on your part (save for the initiating thought) and moves under its own power,
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by necro2607 ( 771790 )
          Hey, look at the software that runs your PC. You think that is more reliable than your own brain, for controlling limbs on your body accurately? heh! ;)
      • A man with cybernetic limbs shoots and kills a woman. During the court trials, his defense lawyer (highly experienced with defending people with cybernetic prosthetics) says that the defendant wasn't used to his newly upgraded/installed cybernetic body parts (and the new control software for them) and thus fired the gun unintentionally.

        When I saw this episode, it was a bit of a shock to consider those kinds of situations where the natural self-control we take for granted could potentially no longer be in p

      • A man with cybernetic limbs shoots and kills a woman. During the court trials, his defense lawyer (highly experienced with defending people with cybernetic prosthetics) says that the defendant wasn't used to his newly upgraded/installed cybernetic body parts (and the new control software for them) and thus fired the gun unintentionally.

        I haven't seen that episode but let me guess... It turned out that his arm was actually hacked by another Section in order to kill the woman for various political reasons wi
        • by Knara ( 9377 )

          A man with cybernetic limbs shoots and kills a woman. During the court trials, his defense lawyer (highly experienced with defending people with cybernetic prosthetics) says that the defendant wasn't used to his newly upgraded/installed cybernetic body parts (and the new control software for them) and thus fired the gun unintentionally.

          I haven't seen that episode but let me guess... It turned out that his arm was actually hacked by another Section in order to kill the woman for various political reasons with various political ramifications that are explained through fifteen minutes of exposition while Sec 9 drives around town?

          I kid, much love for GitS, but the show is often -way- too true to the more obnoxious parts of Shiro Masumune's writing style. :)

          The episode is actually a hybrid/new one based on Motoko's trial in the original manga. In this case, the defense lawyer was using the offender's cybernetic parts and the S9 "defendant"'s lack of cybernetics (in Stand Alone Complex, Tosuga has no cybernetics other than his cyberbrain, which seems to be different than in the origina manga) to prove that Tosuga deliberately sought to harm and discriminate against the offender in his alleged use of excessive force to detain the offender. It's actually a ra

        • What you call obnoxious I call truly epic. O well, different strokes.
      • Never mind the whole pointing-of-the-gun part...kinda like "oh my god, why did you shoot that robber?? He just pointed a gun at you, it's not like he was going to shoot you."

        Someone once said: "Never point a gun at a man unless you intend to shoot him. Never shoot a man unless you intend to kill him."

        It's just another thing for us to blame our lack of MENTAL self-control on. I didn't see it, but I'm assuming the point of that episode was that people are still responsible (or should be held as such, anywa
      • by hitmark ( 640295 )
        in many ways its the same as arguing that someone under the influence did something they didnt intend to do because they didnt have full control over their own body...

        but yes, gits:sac is surprisingly deep in this way.
      • When I saw this episode, it was a bit of a shock to consider those kinds of situations where the natural self-control we take for granted could potentially no longer be in place, if we were to start to rely on technology to take the place of our physical bodies...

        I doubt that a person's consciousness could be transferred to machine (at that point the consciousness becoming entirely non-physical). Maybe all the neurons and other components in the brain could be replaced with artificial versions, but consci

        • by Coulson ( 146956 )
          How do you know you are the same person you were 10 minutes ago? Or a year ago? Memory is the only evidence we have for the continuity of identity. A copy of your consciousness and memories is you. You and your copy only diverge when one of you has a unique (non-copied) experience.

          This is similar to the Star Trek teleporter question: assuming a teleporter works by breaking you down and reassembleing you elsewhere, how do you know that the person on the far end is still you? What if the teleporter malfu
          • Hope I did not sound arrogant -- not my intention.

            One thing that makes me question is that if two copies existed at the same time, (I think) clearly both could not be the exact same conscious person (i.e. I think they would likely have separate experiences).
          • one more thing... Suppose the components of a person's brain were slowly replaced with artificial ones, and eventually the whole brain became an artificial machine. Would this still be the same same person (i.e. would they in their experience have died and there now be something else in their place now?)? Not sure, but I would probably say yes. What if, then, bit by bit this artificial brain became dependent on a non-physical software representation of this brain? That's where I puzzle...I wonder if there
    • Lawyer: Did you mean to shoot your wife||husband? Defendant: I was so mad I may have thought about it but in no way did I consciously shoot him. My arm has a mind of his own

      Feel sorry for the man when a thought goes stray in anger in the rest room...

      On a serious note though, you certainly wouldn't want this connected to the Internet (or any network) in order to protect somewhat again hackers...perhaps it would need some shielding too to keep from line-of-sight hacking.

  • Did no one watch Voyager?! This is how the end starts.. First we're all happy people with our little cyborg chips to control our sex bots, then suddenly we take real women and make them sex bots.. and they'd be all like "I love Mr. God man" and be rubbing us, and feeding us grapes.. maybe serving ice cold beer. .. .. .. Where can I buy these chips??
  • by Mike Morgan ( 9565 ) * on Thursday October 04, 2007 @12:55PM (#20854991)
    Anything is solvable with another layer of abstraction.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Anything is solvable with another layer of abstraction.
      That's it! We'll have virtual cyborg arms! We could try the whole thing a virtualization first, and then....but wait! Why stop there! We'll just make whole virtual cyborg bodies! After that, who needs real bodies! The brain'll be a sort of hypervisor ... you could be three people at once!

      What? Why is everyone looking at me like that?
    • Anything is solvable with another layer of abstraction.

      Not really. You just come up with a nice theoretical framework, and if someone can fill in the miracle between layers 2 and 4, you're golden.

      It's not actually solved, it's just really great on paper. :-P

      Cheers
  • What's with the corporate speak:

    reinvent a new paradigm for each modality
    That makes my head hurt, even when it comes from a research engineer.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Any PHB knows that the real research engineers strive to enable knowledge-based decision making based on real-time information by implementing an enterprise content management system.
  • This is going to feel...a little weird.
  • by InlawBiker ( 1124825 ) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @01:02PM (#20855105)
    10 FOR I = 1 TO 50 20 WALK 30 IF ROBOT = BUMPINTOSOMETHING THEN GOTO 50 40 NEXT I 50 PRINT "Ouch!"; 60 TURNAROUND 70 GOTO 10
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by djlosch ( 556330 )
      "what does your robot do?
      it collects data about the surrounding environment, then discards it and drives into walls"
      -- c/o bash.org
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Sorry, I know, but someone had to dissect your algorithm ... might as well be me.

      Every 50 "walks", he is going to say "ouch" even if he didn't bumpintosomething ...

      Jesus, I just realised I learnt BASIC over 30 years ago ... now that's scary :-(

    • by d_54321 ( 446966 )
      I was thinking of something more like:

      while(armMissing()){

          if (!debug){

              crushKillDestroy();

          }

          petKitty();

      }
  • by Voltageaav ( 798022 ) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @01:09PM (#20855205) Homepage
    The mouse and keyboard would no longer be needed. You would likely be able to interface with computers much faster as well allowing people to get more work done in a day, but at the possible cost of less motion needed. People with a chip in their head could possibly work from their bed, with just a screen on the ceiling. Advances in robotics will allow robot servants. They already have toy versions of these. Laziness is already a problem, and it will only grow as people have to do less and less. I know it's still a long way in the making, and I can't wait for things like this to become mainstream, but also fear it a little.
    • And so the matrix is born, where we lie in bed endlessly not moving because we can do it all from there, then we develop our virtual worlds (wait thats already been done)...
      then we finalize it by sticking tubes into us, so we dont have to go get food or go to the bathroom.....great...where do i sign up!

      "I'm not so bad, once you get to know me"
    • You're thinking too small, with brain to computer connection you can go to brain to computer to brain, people in society are already specialized for specific work the way our cells are, humanity can become one huge organism!

      Or maybe I've just read too much Sci-Fi.
  • For Porn!

    Why you think the matrix was born?
    Porn porn porn!
  • by Cleon ( 471197 )
    Sounds like they adapted the OO concept of abstract classes to neural devices.

    Lakshminarayan "Ram" Srinivasan, lead author of a paper on the subject

    As in the Long Island Srinivasans?
  • How far along are they with the DNA patch that will allow brain cells to interpret and transmit XML?
  • In Soviet Borg Cube, cybernetic implants control YOU!

  • Just wait for Windows Cyborg/Pro with TrulyDirectX 12!

    The BSOD becomes the BSOD (Black Shroud of Death) however, which means you really want to test this stuff better.
  • It doesn't seem to have been posted yet, so here's the research abstract and a link to the actual paper describing the research:

    General Purpose Filter Design for Neural Prosthetic Devices [physiology.org]

    Lakshminarayan Srinivasan1*, Uri Tzvi Eden2, Sanjoy K. Mitter3, and Emery N Brown

    Brain-driven interfaces depend on estimation procedures to convert neural signals to inputs for prosthetic devices that can assist individuals with severe motor deficits. Previous estimation procedures were developed on an application-specific basis. Here we report a coherent estimation framework that unifies these procedures and motivates new applications of prosthetic devices driven by action potentials, local field potentials (LFP), electrocorticography (ECoG), electroencephalography (EEG), electromyography (EMG), or optical methods. The brain-driven interface is described as a probabilistic relationship between neural activity and components of a prosthetic device that may take on discrete or continuous values. A new estimation procedure is developed for action potentials, and a corresponding procedure is described for field potentials and optical measurements. We test our framework against dominant approaches in an arm reaching task using simulated traces of ensemble spiking activity from primary motor cortex (MI), and a wheelchair navigation task using simulated traces of EEG-band power. Adaptive filtering is incorporated to demonstrate performance under neuron death and discovery. Finally, we characterize performance under model misspecification using physiologically realistic history dependence in MI spiking. These simulated results predict that the unified framework outperforms previous approaches under various conditions, in the control of position and velocity, based on trajectory and endpoint mean squared errors.

  • A handsome young cyborg named Ace
    Wooed women at every base
    But once ladies glanced at
    His special enhancement
    They vanished with nary a trace.
    -- Barracks graffiti, Sparta Command
  • ...await the poor idiots who, on Linux, do the following:

    mount /dev/brain
    rm -rf /

  • Does it run linux users?
  • i would like to encourage the use of the term Psionics for mind machine interface. Avionics are electronics related to aviation.

    [OffTopic]

    "A ZDNet article discusses advances in the translation of brain activity to electronic control being made at MIT"

    Awkward sentence construction makes baby Jeebus cry.

    A ZDNet article discusses MIT's advances in the translation of brain activity to electronic control.

    See, it's more succinct and direct.

    Here are the hints that you are using passive voice and other grammatical
  • A way to backup my memories to the 4 PetaByte Hard Drive. This way I will NOT miss another Birthday, Anniversary, or Party; And with the hardware, I can get there on time, finally. Dawn, I need this stuff NOW!

Once it hits the fan, the only rational choice is to sweep it up, package it, and sell it as fertilizer.

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