Skip to main content

Scientists figure out a way to correct a robot's mistakes via brain waves

Brain-controlled Robots
Is there a bigger nerdy childhood fantasy than being able to use our thoughts to direct a robot to carry out tasks?

Maybe not, but thanks to the good folks at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and Boston University, mind-controlled robots aren’t entirely a dream any more.

“We’ve developed a system that uses EEG brain-activity data to correct a robot’s mistakes in real time,” CSAIL research scientist Stephanie Gil told Digital Trends. “For several years researchers have tried to develop robots that can be controlled by brain signals. The problem is that to do this, most of the time humans have to ‘think’ in a specific way that computers can recognize, like looking at a flashing light that corresponds to a particular task. Obviously, this is a pretty unnatural experience for us, and can be very mentally taxing. And it’s especially problematic if we are overseeing a robot to do a dangerous task in manufacturing or construction. In our case the users do not need to modulate their brain activity, they just have to evaluate the actions of the robot: a task that is very natural to humans.”

For the study, the human participant wears an electroencephalography (EEG) brain cap for recording neural activity. They then watch as a robot performs an object-sorting task, and use nothing more than their thoughts to correct it if it makes a mistake. This is done using a machine-learning algorithm capable of classifying brain waves in just 10-30 milliseconds.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

“I could imagine a system like this being used to let a person monitor robots as they perform tasks that are deemed too dirty or dangerous for humans, such as on a manufacturing floor or even underwater and in space,” CSAIL PhD candidate Joseph DelPreto told Digital Trends. “Alternatively, such a system could allow an autonomous car to drive itself while still being kept in check at all times by a human driver in case it makes a mistake.”

There’s still work to be done before it can reach that point, of course. The system as it currently exists handles only a relatively simple binary choice activity, although it suggests that one day there will be far more intuitive ways for us to control robots.

As Boston University PhD candidate Andres F. Salazar-Gomez put it to us, “This is important because it means that people don’t have to train themselves to think in a certain way. The machine is the one that adapts to you, instead of the other way around.”

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
4 simple pieces of tech that helped me run my first marathon
Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar displaying pace information.

The fitness world is littered with opportunities to buy tech aimed at enhancing your physical performance. No matter your sport of choice or personal goals, there's a deep rabbit hole you can go down. It'll cost plenty of money, but the gains can be marginal -- and can honestly just be a distraction from what you should actually be focused on. Running is certainly susceptible to this.

A few months ago, I ran my first-ever marathon. It was an incredible accomplishment I had no idea I'd ever be able to reach, and it's now going to be the first of many I run in my lifetime. And despite my deep-rooted history in tech, and the endless opportunities for being baited into gearing myself up with every last product to help me get through the marathon, I went with a rather simple approach.

Read more
This bracelet helps you fall asleep faster and sleep longer

This content was produced in partnership with Apollo Neuroscience.
Have you been struggling to get the recommended seven hours of sleep? It's always frustrating when you get in bed at a reasonable time, then toss and turn for a hours before you actually sleep. The quality of that sleep is important too. If you're waking up multiple times during the night, you're likely not getting the quality REM cycle sleep that truly rejuvenates your body. If traditional remedies like herbal teas and noise machines just aren't helping, maybe it's time to try a modern solution. Enter the Apollo wearable.

Now we understand being a little skeptical. How can a bracelet on your wrist or ankle affect your sleep patterns? Certainly the answer to a better night's sleep can't be so simple. We considered these same things when we first heard of it. We'll dive deeper into the science behind the Apollo wearable, but suffice it to say that many people have experienced deeper, uninterrupted sleep while wearing one.
A non-conventional approach to better sleep

Read more
The 11 best Father’s Day deals that you can get for Sunday
Data from a workout showing on the screen of the Apple Watch Series 8.

Father's Day is fast approaching and there's still time to buy your beloved Dad a sweet new device to show him how much you love him. That's why we've rounded up the ten best Father's Day tech deals going on right now. There's something for most budgets here, including if you're able to spend a lot on your loved one. Read on while we take you through the highlights and remember to order fast so you don't miss out on the big day.
Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 -- $200, was $230

While it's the Plus version of the Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 that features in our look at the best tablets, the standard variety is still worth checking out. Saving your Dad the need to dig out their laptop or squint at a small phone screen, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 offers a large 10.5-inch LCD display and all the useful features you would expect. 128GB of storage means plenty of room for all your Dad's favorite apps as well as games too. A long-lasting battery and fast charging save him the need for a power source too often too.

Read more