Advanced Robotic Arm Controlled by Monkey’s Thoughts (w/ Video)

Jun 03, 2010 by John Messina weblog
In this demonstration researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have taught a monkey to use its thoughts to control an advanced robotic arm and perform elaborate maneuvers with it. Credit: University of Pittsburgh

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have demonstrated a monkey controlling an advanced robotic arm by using its thoughts. The experiments were led by Dr. Andrew Schwartz, a professor of neurobiology and involved a high degree of complexity in the robotic arm, the level of control, and the intricacy of the manipulations.

This is not the first time that Dr. Schwartz implanted sensors in a monkey’s brain to control a robotic arm. Back in May of 2008 experiments were conducted by Dr. Schwartz, using a simpler , to teach a monkey to feed itself. This was a four-degrees-of-freedom arm with shoulder joints, elbow, and a simple gripper.

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In the video above in the Dr. Schwartz’s lab are able to move a robotic arm to feed themselves marshmallows and chunks of fruit while their own arms are restrained.

In the experiments conducted this year two sensors were implanted into the monkey’s brain. One was implanted in the hand area and the second in the arm area of its . The sensors monitor the firing of and send data to the computer that translates the patterns into commands that control the robotic arm.

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In the video above the monkey (right side of video) uses its right arm to tap a button which triggers the robotic manipulator to position a black knob to an arbitrary position. The monkey is then seen controlling its articulated robotic arm to grasp the knob.

After touching the knob the monkey places its mouth on a straw to be rewarded with a drink. By constant repetition the monkey eventually starts placing its mouth on the straw before touching the knob knowing that a drink is coming.

This advanced has seven-degrees-of-freedom as compared to the four-degrees-of-freedom arm back in 2008. The added three more degrees of freedom adds an articulated wrist which can perform pitch, roll and yaw movements. These movements enable the monkey to precisely turn the knob by rotating the mechanical wrist.

By putting the brain in direct communications with machines, researchers will one day be able to engineer and operate advanced prosthetics in a natural way to help paralyzed people live a close to normal life.

As of this writing Dr. Schwartz and his colleagues have not published the detailed results of their latest experiments.

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User comments : 29

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Quantum_Conundrum
3.4 / 5 (8) Jun 03, 2010
Once this technology is fully developed and safe, they should donate free robotic limbs to the injured veterans.
kasen
not rated yet Jun 03, 2010
I wonder if this could work beyond prosthetics. What would happen if the monkey's arms weren't restrained? I'd expect some sort of mirroring behaviour, mechanical arm moving the same as the organic one, initially, but maybe with training the movements can be separated. Definitely needs human subjects, though. Don't really see why they haven't moved on yet.

Unrelated question: why would anyone disagree with the idea of veterans, or anyone for that matter, receiving robotic limb donations?
sanddog42
1.8 / 5 (5) Jun 03, 2010
"Unrelated question: why would anyone disagree with the idea of veterans, or anyone for that matter, receiving robotic limb donations?"

Because donated limbs don't produce a profit and are therefore anti-capitalism and pro-communist, therefore un-American. Veterans didn't fight to see the U.S. of A. turn commie. They would probably refuse the limbs out of a sense of honor. :-\
Quantum_Conundrum
3 / 5 (4) Jun 03, 2010
sanddog42:

Tell that to some guy who lost his livelihood over these injuries.

Wow. There is no dishonor in recieving medical treatment and the best technology available.

These veterans deserve the best care available, and they deserve not to have to pay for it.

Also, they didn't die/get wounded over seas for "capitalism".

Capitalism is no more "pro-american" than any other economics model. It is also no more constitutional than communism.

And guess what? All governments are necessarily communistic. What are roads and bridges if not communistic public venues? What are public school system? Communistic.

As for profit, everyone profits when everyone is healthy and well educated.
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (6) Jun 03, 2010
Once this technology is fully developed and safe, they should donate free robotic limbs to the injured veterans.


Yay. Give paid killers the benefit of technology first!
Quantum_Conundrum
2.6 / 5 (5) Jun 03, 2010
antialias:

If not for those "paid killers" you can be sure that muslims everywhere would destroy our way of life...free of charge.
cmn
5 / 5 (4) Jun 03, 2010
I think the next logical step would be to make a completely mobile robot controlled by monkeys, then canvas our enemies with marshmallows.
sanddog42
4.7 / 5 (3) Jun 03, 2010
QuaCon, having written my first comment with a healthy dose of irony, I was fully ready to agree with your repsponse... Then you started bashing Muslims. Oy.

And antialias, it's hardly fair to call our soldiers paid killers. They're not paid very well, and from what I hear, having to kill someone isn't really much fun.
Gilbert
not rated yet Jun 03, 2010
this research is funded by this movement - en. wikipedia. org/wiki /Transhumanism also search for the out of the box transhumanism on youtube
trekgeek1
not rated yet Jun 04, 2010
The arm just starts throttling the scientist. "Get your robot hand off me you damned dirty ape!" The monkeys have mechanized, I for one welcome our simian overlords.
HealingMindN
not rated yet Jun 04, 2010
The arm is the beginning! Beware of MonkeyNet! MonkeyNet will send terminapers!
HealingMindN
5 / 5 (1) Jun 04, 2010
I'll bet that monkey would like to use that arm to throw feces at the researchers.
antialias
not rated yet Jun 04, 2010
And antialias, it's hardly fair to call our soldiers paid killers. They're not paid very well, and from what I hear, having to kill someone isn't really much fun.

So? I'm not being paid all that much and sometimes my job isn't fun, either. Does that mean it's not my job?
adaptation
4 / 5 (2) Jun 04, 2010
You seriously want to blame Muslims? Unbelievable. I suppose if Fox News said that putting fertilizer down your shorts made you smarter, you'd be out in the garden right now. The narrow-mindedness of some of the readers of this SCIENCE website, appalls me. Generally scientists or those interested in science need a rather broad view...

I totally support more advanced prosthetics for the "paid killers" assuming they would enhance the quality of their lives. So does Dean Kamen: http://www.ted.co...arm.html

I don't understand why they are still implanting electrodes into monkeys' brains. We currently have non-intrusive ways to do the same thing (see video above). You can control your computer with your mind. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotiv_Systems If they were simulating nervous system feedback, I'd understand it better.

I'm with kasen. They should have four armed men and women running around. What's the hold up?

hagureinu
5 / 5 (2) Jun 04, 2010
hey Guys, an unbelievably amazing piece of technology here, but all you can talk about is this political/religious/social care crap! what are you doing on this site?

what's really interesting is how they do that. it's unclear does this arm send any direct feedback to the brain, or is it just visually controlled.
MikeMike
not rated yet Jun 04, 2010
I'm a good monkey now...I hardly ever throw my poop anymore!
CarolinaScotsman
not rated yet Jun 04, 2010
Good article, very important and beneficial tecnology not to mention just plain fasinating. But why does the article's title give me flashbacks to 1950s Japanese horror films such as Godzilla?
CSharpner
5 / 5 (1) Jun 06, 2010


"They" should give... Which "They"? The scientists? The organization that funds the R&D work? The government (which is us taxpayers)? The creators of the technology should do what they want with it. I hope they make BIG bucks with it and advance the tech further. We'll all benefit. If you want charitable contributions sent to the armed services wounded then feel free to buy as many of these as you like and send them or start a charitable organization to collect voluntary donations to buy some and send them to the wounded vets. Maybe make a deal with the manufacturer to sell them to you at cost. I'm not being snark. I'm serious. I think once this tech is fit for human consumption, I'd certainly donate to that cause. Just don't interfere with innovation and the incentive for inventors to invent and don't engage in forced "donations". Why these comments IMMEDIATELY jumped into multiple political rants is beyond me, but hey, now I'm doing it too.. :-/

NotAsleep
4 / 5 (1) Jun 07, 2010
The research is probably already funded by the government and I'm sure once it's safe, the DoD will be offering these to disabled vets who opt for the surgery. Uncle Sam (finally) spares no expense in helping disabled vets lead the most normal lives possible.

With that in mind, I hope they don't turn the military in guinnea pigs for human testing of this before they really understand the long-term impacts of using the device. If you need to get brain surgery once a year to maintain it, I'd wait for version 2...
kasen
not rated yet Jun 07, 2010
Actually, if you surf the related youtube links, you'll see there already have been human subjects, albeit using far less invasive technology.

The trick is to improve the translation process, which depends on furthering our understanding of the brain. Those sensors need to get smaller. Nanotech just seems to pop up everywhere these days...
sanddog42
5 / 5 (1) Jun 07, 2010
So? I'm not being paid all that much and sometimes my job isn't fun, either. Does that mean it's not my job?


No, but as far as I can tell no one is calling your humanity into question. Soldiers risk life, limb and psyche in our defense. They deserve some respect.
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (3) Jun 07, 2010
No, but as far as I can tell no one is calling your humanity into question. Soldiers risk life, limb and psyche in our defense. They deserve some respect.


Snort. No they don't. They risk their lives so that some rich guy can get richer. They're low IQ lowlifes who want to make a buck sitting around playing with expensive toys making the world an unsafer place for everyone. By putting the decision when and where they will kill other people into the hands of others they have effectively reached the absolute nadir of ethics and morals.

No. No respect from me for people who haven't got enough braincells to realize that pointing guns at others doesn't make the world a better place.
CSharpner
5 / 5 (1) Jun 07, 2010
No. No respect from me for people who haven't got enough braincells to realize that pointing guns at others doesn't make the world a better place.

And I suppose you feel the same for those who fought and stopped the Nazi machine in Europe and police who point guns at bad guys who want to harm the innocent? If you ever should need police protection in the future, be sure to tell them your opinions of them before they decide to go into harms way to save your ungrateful self.
sanddog42
not rated yet Jun 08, 2010
No. No respect from me for people who haven't got enough braincells to realize that pointing guns at others doesn't make the world a better place.

Wow! You're hateful, aintcha?
antialias
1 / 5 (2) Jun 08, 2010
If you ever should need police protection in the future, be sure to tell them your opinions of them before they decide to go into harms way to save your ungrateful self.

Police is an entirely different kettle of fish. we're talking here about people who _only_ defend. Armies have never done that (most particularly armies of today who are all about 'preemtive' defense - i.e. aggressive, and preemptive warfare)

No. If you think you need a bunch of thugs with guns then I'm sorry: you are not capable of thinking at all.
NotAsleep
5 / 5 (1) Jun 08, 2010
Antialias, it's a good thing I know you don't believe all that because you'd be totally nuts if you did!

Thanks for stirring the patriotism in us all

:)
CSharpner
not rated yet Jun 08, 2010
Police is an entirely different kettle of fish. we're talking here about people who _only_ defend. Armies have never done that (most particularly armies of today who are all about 'preemtive' defense - i.e. aggressive, and preemptive warfare)

No. If you think you need a bunch of thugs with guns then I'm sorry: you are not capable of thinking at all.

I suppose you've never heard of SWAT?
SteveL
not rated yet Jun 14, 2010
Philosophy and its precursory emotion - the viral enemy of clear thinking have invaded this topic.

Back on topic... Once this technology is "perfected" not just singular robotic limbs but enchanced robotic systems could be developed. Just imagine workers "being there" with enhanced capacities if say, an oil well head ruptures 1 mile below the surface. Any situation really where the flesh is either too valuable or too weak. The system "driver" doesn't have to actually be there; a fiber-optic or wireless link could transmit all the command and feedback signals needed.
CSharpner
not rated yet Jun 16, 2010
SteveL,

Sounds just like a Star Trek TNG episode where Geordi does just that.

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