A Robotic Dream


Finally, an era where robots can help disabled people to fulfil their dreams has arrived.

This incredible news come from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, USA, where, thanks to an aspirin sized set of electrodes implanted in her brain, the amazing 58 year old Cathy Hutchinson with a stroke that paralysed most of her brain and lost her use of the limbs, was able to drink alone again.

The experiment consisted in implanting a small device in the person’s motor cortex (which is the part of the brain that controls movement in the body) and connect this to some computers. These computers were able to receive the patient’s neurological signals, match them to their corresponding movement order, and send this information to other computers which accomplished all the tasks.

One of the tests was to make the two other volunteers (the woman and a 66 year old man) reach out, with the robotic arm, a foam sphere, and grab it. The results were really good: one of them got the ball in 46% of all the attempts and the other a 62%.

Another test, the most famous one as it demonstrated how this new project can help our society, was the experiment in which the woman took part. The robot arm was supposed to move according to the Hutchinson’s orders, and grab a cup of coffee, move it to her mouth so she could drink from the straw, and leave it back in the table again.

For this, the scientists told her to imagine she was moving the robot arm, which caused neuronal signals the computers were able to detect and transform into orders the robot arm carried out.

The inventor of BrainGate, the technology used in this experiment, John Donoghue, explains how happy the woman was after completing the experiment and how you could see her brilliant smile when she knew she could do some things finally by herself.

This invention can’t only stop here, and other projects to develop this idea are already being carried out.

For example, scientists can see how this creation can be attached to wheelchairs and other devices to help assist the disabled.

Also, although this looks more into the future, Leigh Hochberg, the leader of this , says these studies can help create a technology so that people with paralysis or amputations can recover

This outstanding experiment was not only an important scientific breakthrough, but it also made a woman that has been in silence for 15 years able to ‘move’ by herself and even drink only using her mind.

Sources Used:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21428654.100-braincontrolled-arm-could-beat-paralysis.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/17/science/bodies-inert-they-moved-a-robot-with-their-minds.html?_r=1

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-18087949

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The New Chinese GPS System


A GPS from the Chinese company Beidou

On Monday 30th April, the Chinese company Beidou has launched 2 new satellites to increase the precision of its own global positioning system, named global positioning Beidou / Compass.

The machinery has been sent to outer space from the Chinese base of Xichang, in the Chinese province of Sichuan.

These 2 new satellites are the number 12 and 13 of the Beidou project for the Chinese GPS and are the first mechanisms sent to outer space that the country has launched at once with only one propulsor.

China is also planning to send another 3 robots to the space during this year.

This system or project started to operate last December 2011, after 10 years of calculations and practices, to preparate every scenario and possible situations.

The Asian country has created this plan to continue to innovate with technology, and to increase the information available in different topics, like weather, fire control, telecommunications… The scheme will also help the economy, as it will help the government to find about transport and oil prospecting.

The project is calculated to end in 2020, with more than 30 satellites orbiting the Earth.

 

The Chinese project is not the only idea governments have had to make new GPS systems so not only the American one is use.

In Europe, there is also the Galileo project where many of the countries in the continent are taking part with millionaire investments.

India has also got its own GPS navigation, although it is not completely ready yet. The Indian scheme, the Geo Augmented Navigational system (GAGAN), will soon launch a satellite too, followed by some others to cover the full Indian landmass.

Sources:

http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2012/04/30/ciencia/1335777113.html