Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Real Brains Connected to Computers: Neo, Welcome to the Matrix

Watch this video! "Human beings operating computers, writing emails, and driving wheelchairs with nothing but their thoughts."
People who are completely paralyzed due to illness or trauma are getting help communicating with a new technology that connects their brains to a computer. (Per CBS's 60 Minutes)

When I heard a commercial for this 60 Minutes story in late October about the human brain possibly working a computer or a robotic limb through a direct computer-to-brain interface, I thought Neo, welcome to The Matrix aka "I Know Kung Fu." (See clip below.)

Okay, so, we're not as far along as Neo and Morpheus yet, but still, this new technology is pretty darned amazing.

I hoped to catch the 60 Minutes story when it aired, but due to the craziness building up to and after the presidential election, I missed the segment. Fortunately, 60 Minutes has it online. One of the the videos is embedded at the beginning of this post, and you can watch more at the CBS site.

At the University of Pittsburgh, they've implanted directly into the brains of monkeys the same types of electrodes that some paralyzed humans have connecting their brains to a computer via a scalp cap interface (a brain-computer interface, BCI). As a result, one monkey is able to operate a robotic arm with only his thoughts. Researchers hope that eventually humans may have brain implants, allowing those who've been completely paralyzed to control "bionic" limbs.

One woman, Cathy Hutchinson, already has a direct computer-brain interface. She's a stroke survivor who moves her computer cursor with her mind and has been able to drive a wheelchair as well with her thoughts; however, the chair was empty when she drove it.

Welcome to our brave new world, closer to "merging man with machine."

More food for thought on the medical breakthroughs and the advancement of science and technology. Tonight I saw on CBS News with Katie Couric the potential to grow our own organs for transplant: "Doctors have given a woman a new windpipe with tissue grown from her own stem cells, eliminating the need for anti-rejection drugs." That story is here.


Jannie said...

No freaking way! My husband is right, that kind of stuff is really starting to happen, eeh martial arts thing I knew, but the paralyzed ones wtih thoughts only... amazing! And cool. said...

Hello there!

At what point will man become PART machine and part human and we will walk down the street and NOT be able to tell a human from a part-human-part machine species??

I am serious....

{shaking my head}