Scientists from MIT and Boston University devised a system that allows robots to interpret simple brain waves. This technique is called electroencephalography (EEG). Although this technique has been used before, it wasn’t in a closed-loop, real-time environment. In essence, the scientists were able to get a robot to react to human brain waves and change their course of action nearly instantaneously.
The robots were programmed to perform a simple sorting task. If the robot placed an object onto one target that should have been placed in the other target, a human observer was asked to “mentally disagree” with the robot’s choice. The response made by the human creates brain signals known as error-related potentials, which the robot could receive and interpret via its connection to an EEG cap worn by the human.
The aim of this experiment was to alter the robot’s choice before it completed its task, according to researchers, this is a real-time error correction that had not been achieved before. Even though they achieved that goal, they weren’t able to get the robot to second-guess a signal in real time: error-related potentials are weak signals, so sometimes the robots were confused.
The researchers said their work could enable humans to remotely supervise robots on factory floors and also if the robots learn to second-guess, human-robot interactions will be more efficient.
“If this signal could be leveraged to facilitate human-robot control even in a restricted class of situations, it would enable many new applications of natural human-robot collaboration,” they wrote in a paper published on Monday. “For example, humans could remotely supervise robots on factory floors and communicate ‘stop’ instantaneously when the robot makes a mistake without needing to type a command or push a button.”
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, often cited as one of the world’s most prestigious universities.
Founded in 1861 in response to the increasing industrialization of the United States, MIT adopted a European polytechnic university model and stressed laboratory instruction in applied science and engineering. Researchers worked on computers, radar, and inertial guidance during World War II and the Cold War.
Boston University is a private research university located in Boston, Massachusetts. The university is nonsectarian, and is historically affiliated with the United Methodist Church.
The university has more than 3,800 faculty members and 33,000 students, and is one of Boston’s largest employers. It offers bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctorates, and medical, dental, business, and law degrees through eighteen schools and colleges on two urban campuses.