South Korean researchers develop a brainwave interface that can control an exoskeleton robot that helps the disabled. Sharon Reich reports.
South Korean researchers have developed a machine that could read the minds of the disabled and transform their lives. When used in combination with an exoskeleton that enables movement, the brainwave interface measures EEG signals and decodes them into motion control orders. Professor Lee Seong-whan and his team at Korea University are behind the development. (SOUNDBITE) (Korean) SOUTH KOREAN PROFESSOR OF BRAIN AND COGNITIVE ENGINEERING AT KOREA UNIVERSITY, LEE SEONG-WHAN, SAYING: "The exoskeleton robot reads the brainwaves of the user and removes unnecessary external noise through the signal processing system. Then, the robot picks out and classifies the certain characteristics of the brainwaves. In this way, the exoskeleton robot is controlled by matching the classified brainwaves to the designated orders." To do that, a visual stimulus generator is used to read the brainwaves. The device has five LEDs that represent different commands - turn left or right, walk forward, stand up, and sit down. Each of these commands has a different frequency, so the corresponding LED light flickers when a signal is sent. (SOUNDBITE) (Korean) SOUTH KOREAN PROFESSOR OF BRAIN AND COGNITIVE ENGINEERING AT KOREA UNIVERSITY, LEE SEONG-WHAN, SAYING: "When a user focuses on visual stimuli, the same frequency is generated in the occipital lobe of the user's brain. So, we can detect the user's intentions by reading his or her frequency." The control system collects the signals with the EEG cap through a wireless transmitter-receiver and converts them into system instructions to operate the exoskeleton. While the system is focused on helping the disabled become more mobile, because it understands the user's intention clearly, the scientists anticipate that in the future, the technology will be applied to other devices, including self-driving cars and self-navigating drones.