Science can do all kinds of amazing things, including help someone get themselves a beer. And if you don't think that's a big deal, you need to watch the video of Erik G. Sorto using a robotic arm to drink a beer despite the fact that Sorto is paralyzed from the neck down. Who would have thought that when mind reading robots arrived they would be so helpful!
The machine Sorto used is not the first robotic arm to use brain signal to guide motion, but it does work differently from most existing robotic arms. While in the past, scientists have used signals from the motor cortex, which is the part of the brain that controls motion, this new robot uses signals from the posterior parietal cortex, which instead transmits the intention to move. Sorto isn't controlling the robotic arm by directing its movements so much as telling it what he wants.
Like I said, the mind reading robots are here. And apparently they are down with us drinking.
Sorto, who was paralyzed by a gunshot wound over ten years ago, told his doctors that after years of needing people to hold straws up to his mouth, that among his other goals in signing up for the project, the first one he wanted to tackle was drinking a beer by himself. And now, he can!
But seriously, if this video doesn't inspire you — both regarding the awesome technology involved and the awesome achievement it is for Sorto — I don't know what will.
Using the robotic arm, Sorto is also able to grasp other objects, to play video games, and has also played rock paper scissors. And he can do it all without having to use a step by step thought process that robotics controlled by the motor cortex require. Instead, he can do what everyone else does when they want something: just tell your body to do it. And that is just awesome, and has amazing implications for the ability of people living with disabilities to lead independent lives thanks to easy-to-use technology.
You can find out more about how this new arm works in the video below.