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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Mind over matter: Brain waves control Asimo


Staff writer

Imagine controlling a robot with a mere thought. Honda Motor Co. is well on the way to achieving that goal.

News photo
Mind-meld: A Honda employee uses headgear to demonstrate technology that links human thoughts to robots at the automaker's headquarters in Tokyo. AP PHOTO

Honda said Tuesday its research subsidiary has jointly developed technology with two other entities that enables human thought alone to send rudimentary commands to a humanoid Asimo robot.

The system, Brain Machine Interface, is touted as the world's first technology using both electroencephalography and near-infrared spectroscopy along with newly developed information-extraction technology to remotely control a robot, Honda said.

Electroencephalography (EEG) is the recording of electrical activity along the scalp produced by the firing of neurons within the brain.

Two types of sensors worn on a person's head can catch scalp electrical and brain blood-flow changes. By imagining four movements — of the right hand, left hand, the feet and eating — a computer linked to the sensors commands an Asimo to move.

"We want to increase the kinds of images (that will work) in the future," said Yasuhisa Arai, president of Honda Research Institute Japan Co., which developed the technology along with Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International and Shimadzu Corp.

Honda next wants to perform tasks such as unlocking a car or turning on home appliances through human thought.

Honda doesn't know when these goals might be reached.

Tatsuya Okabe, senior scientist at Honda Research Institute, said the four motions so far tried have achieved an accuracy rate of more than 90 percent — a world first. Similar technologies in the United States and Europe boast only a 66 percent success rate.



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