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Eat a croissant, have a coffee, and use your eyes to paint a picture with this robotic arm

Grab a croissant and cup of coffee, sit down, and paint a picture — all at the same time. This is the reality made possible by scientists at the Imperial College London, who have developed software that lets a human paint a picture with a robotic arm using just their eyes.

On Wednesday, the team at the college’s Brain and Behavior Lab showed the software and robotic arm in action as a researcher sat in a chair eating a croissant and sipping on coffee, all while using her eyes to paint a picture with the robotic arm acting as an extension of her body. The real-world applications can open up opportunities to improve the lives of those who have difficulty controlling their limbs.

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The setup featured a robotic arm and basic eye-tracking hardware, and the subject used a series of eye movements and blinks to paint a crude, multicolored picture of a house.

“Now we’re not just talking about restorations of the body, but really about augmentation of the body,” said Dr. Aldo Faisal, leader of the project, in an interview with Reuters. “So, we are developing technology that is not only helpful in restoring the ability of people to move, but really technology that can give even able-bodied people an extra pair of hands; and extra pair of arms.”

In other words, this technology can improve our ability to multitask, which may or may not be a welcome proposition.

The team at Imperial College London is looking for partners to help them commercialize the technology.